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Population exposure to smoking and tobacco branding in the UK reality show ‘Love Island’


Background Reality television shows are popular with children and young adults; inclusion of tobacco imagery in these programmes is likely to cause smoking in these groups. Series 3 of the UK reality show Love Island, broadcast in 2017, attracted widespread media criticism for high levels of smoking depicted. We have quantified this tobacco content and estimated the UK population exposure to generic and branded tobacco imagery generated by the show.

Methods We used 1-min interval coding to quantify actual or implied tobacco use, tobacco paraphernalia or branding, in alternate episodes of series 3 of Love Island, and Census data and viewing figures from Kantar Media to estimate gross and per capita tobacco impressions.

Results We coded 21 episodes comprising 1001 min of content. Tobacco imagery occurred in 204 (20%) intervals; the frequency of appearances fell significantly after media criticism. An identifiable cigarette brand, Lucky Strike Double Click, appeared in 16 intervals. The 21 episodes delivered an estimated 559 million gross tobacco impressions to the UK population, predominantly to women, including 47 million to children aged <16 and 44 million gross impressions of Lucky Strike branding, including 4 million to children <16.

Conclusion Despite advertising legislation and broadcasting regulations intended to protect children from smoking imagery in UK television, series 3 of Love Island delivered millions of general and branded tobacco impressions both to children and adults in the UK. More stringent controls on tobacco content in television programmes are urgently needed.

  • advertising and promotion
  • media
  • priority/special populations

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