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‘Being politically active does not have to be difficult.’ A content analysis of tobacco industry-sponsored advocacy websites
  1. M Jane Lewis1,2,
  2. Christopher Ackerman1,
  3. Pamela Ling3
  1. 1 Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
  2. 2 Department of Health Behavior, Society and Policy, Rutgers School of Public Health, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA
  3. 3 Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and Division of General Internal Medicine, University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to M Jane Lewis, Center for Tobacco Studies, Rutgers University New Brunswick, New Brunswick, NJ 08904, USA; lewismj{at}


Objective To characterise the thematic content of tobacco industry-sponsored advocacy websites in the USA and to compare these sites to identify differences in products, target audience, policies or themes.

Methods In 2017, US-based Google and purposive searches identified six US tobacco industry-sponsored advocacy websites. A coding guide based on existing literature, tobacco policy issues and iterative review of the websites was developed and, descriptive analyses of themes on individual websites and overall were conducted.

Results We identified 18 themes; the most common of these were: tobacco taxes (13.9%), providing advocacy resources (10.6%) and pleas for action (10.3%). Related themes were aggregated into four broad categories: advocacy (36.7%), taxes (31.4%), legislation is excessive or unnecessary (21%), and support for weaker tobacco control policies (10.9%). Websites targeting consumers provided more resources to facilitate advocacy than websites targeting retailers.

Conclusions Websites promoting protobacco advocacy are an important and evolving strategy for the tobacco industry. Websites are particularly well suited to leverage marketing activities (eg, building relationships with retailers and consumers) to achieve policy objectives. Monitoring these tactics may allow advocates to counter and anticipate industry opposition to tobacco policy.

  • tobacco industry
  • surveillance and monitoring
  • public policy
  • advocacy

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  • Contributors MJL and PL conceived the research and led the development of methoology, codes and analysis of findings. CA led the coding and worked on the analysis. All authors were involved in the writing, review and editing of the manuscript.

  • Funding This study was funded by National Cancer Institute grant 5R01CA087472

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request. Page captures of the contents of reviewed websites, coding guide and initial findings are available on reasonable request from MJL (