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Print media coverage of California's smokefree bar law
  1. Sheryl Magzamen,
  2. Annemarie Charlesworth,
  3. Stanton A Glantz
  1. Institute for Health Policy Studies, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Stanton A Glantz, Box 0130, University of California, San Francisco San Francisco, CA 94143, USAglantz{at}


OBJECTIVE To assess the print media coverage of California's smokefree bar law in the state of California.

DESIGN Content analysis of newspaper, trade journal, and magazine items.

SUBJECTS Items regarding the smokefree bar law published seven months before and one year following the implementation of the smokefree bar law (June 1997 to December 1998). Items consisted of news articles (n = 446), opinion editorials (n = 31), editorials (n = 104), letters to the editor (n = 240), and cartoons (n = 10).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Number and timing of publication of items, presence of tobacco industry arguments or public health arguments regarding law, positive, negative, and neutral views of opinion items published.

RESULTS 53% of items published concerning the smokefree bar law were news articles, 47% were opinion items. 45% of items regarding the smokefree bar law were published during the first month of implementation. The tobacco industry dominated coverage in most categories (economics, choice, enforcement, ventilation, legislation, individual quotes), except for categories public health used the most frequently (government role, tactics, organisational quotes). Anti-law editorials and letters to the editor were published more than pro-law editorials and letters. Region of the state, paper size, presence of local clean indoor air legislation, and voting on tobacco related ballot initiatives did not have an impact on the presence of opinion items.

CONCLUSIONS The tobacco industry succeeded in obtaining more coverage of the smokefree bar law, both in news items and opinion items. The tobacco industry used historical arguments of restricting freedom of choice and economic ramifications in fighting the smokefree bar law, while public health groups focused on the worker protection issue, and exposed tobacco industry tactics. Despite the skewed coverage, public health groups obtained adequate attention to their arguments to keep the law in effect.

  • content analysis
  • politics
  • passive smoking
  • smokefree bar law
  • California

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