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Every document and picture tells a story: using internal corporate document reviews, semiotics, and content analysis to assess tobacco advertising
  1. S J Anderson1,
  2. T Dewhirst2,
  3. P M Ling3
  1. 1Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA
  2. 2College of Commerce, Department of Management and Marketing, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  3. 3Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Pamela M Ling MD, MPH
 Department of General Internal Medicine, CTCRE, Box 1390, 530 Parnassue Avenue, Suite 366, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-1390, USA; pling{at}


In this article we present communication theory as a conceptual framework for conducting documents research on tobacco advertising strategies, and we discuss two methods for analysing advertisements: semiotics and content analysis. We provide concrete examples of how we have used tobacco industry documents archives and tobacco advertisement collections iteratively in our research to yield a synergistic analysis of these two complementary data sources. Tobacco promotion researchers should consider adopting these theoretical and methodological approaches.

  • B&H, Benson & Hedges
  • B&W, Brown Williamson
  • ITL, Imperial Tobacco Limited
  • LTDL, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library
  • PM, Philip Morris
  • UCSF, University of California, San Francisco
  • corporate documents
  • tobacco
  • advertising
  • research methods
  • communication

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  • Competing interest: none declared