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Can media advocacy influence newspaper coverage of tobacco: measuring the effectiveness of the American stop smoking intervention study's (ASSIST) media advocacy strategies


OBJECTIVE To compare the rate and slant of local tobacco control print media coverage in ASSIST (American stop smoking intervention study) states as compared with non-ASSIST states.

METHODS Local tobacco control policy articles, editorials, and letters to the editors published from 1994 to 1998 clipped from all daily local newspapers in the USA were analysed (n = 95 911). The main hypothesis tested for the existence of an interaction between ASSIST intervention and time. This interaction would represent a change in the difference between ASSIST and non-ASSIST states over the course of the intervention.

RESULTS No evidence of an ASSIST–year interaction was found. However, a main effect for ASSIST was significant for the percentage of articles with the model predicting higher rates of articles for ASSIST states. Similarly the rate of letters to the editor expressing protobacco control views was higher in ASSIST states than non-ASSIST states. No main effects or interactions were found for analyses of percentage of protobacco control editorials. Models controlled for a measure of preintervention tobacco control conditions at baseline.

CONCLUSIONS The presence of an ASSIST main effect should be interpreted with caution because of the quasi-experimental design and the lack of information on article rates before the ASSIST intervention. Nonetheless, these preliminary findings suggest some possible effects of the media advocacy activities of ASSIST when controlling for differences in states' initial tobacco control conditions.

  • intervention study
  • media advocacy strategy

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