Background We analyse news representations of the regulation of heated tobacco products (HTPs) in South Korea, the country where HTP use is among the highest in the world despite conflicts between the government and the HTP manufacturers.
Methods We analysed a total of 571 print and TV news covering HTP regulations, published between 2017 and 2018, the time period when HTPs were introduced to the country and various regulations of HTPs were proposed and implemented. We assessed the prevalence and associations among specific types of HTP regulations that were discussed, valence towards regulation, sources, framing of the relative health risks/benefits of HTPs compared with conventional cigarettes.
Results Taxation (55.2%) and warning labels (25.7%) were two regulation topics covered the most. Almost equal proportions of pro-regulation (2.5%) and anti-regulation valence (2.2%) were found in taxation-related news, while pro-regulation valence appeared more frequently for other restrictions, including warning labels (pro=9.5% vs anti=1.4%), marketing restrictions (pro=6.9% vs anti=0%) and integration of HTPs into smoke-free policies for cigarettes (pro=8.7% vs anti=0%). The government (59%), followed by the tobacco industry (39.4%), was the source cited most often across news stories while the presence of tobacco control advocates was low (4.9%). As for framing, there was no significant difference in the prevalence of stories mentioning reduced harm (31.7%) and equal or more harm (33.6%) of HTPs compared with cigarettes.
Conclusions We provide implications for governments and tobacco control advocates on building consensus for applying cigarette equivalent taxes and pictorial warning labels to HTPs.
- harm reduction
- non-cigarette tobacco products
- tobacco industry
- public policy
Data availability statement
Data are available upon reasonable request. Data will be available upon request to the corresponding author.
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Contributors JJ conducted data analysis and led the manuscript development. S-HK supervised the data collection and contributed to the manuscript development. JT supervised the data collection and contributed to the manuscript development. YJC collected the data and contributed to the manuscript development. Y-JH collected the data.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.