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The tobacco settlement: an analysis of newspaper coverage of a national policy debate, 1997–98
  1. Julie C Lima,
  2. Michael Siegel
  1. Social and Behavioral Sciences Department, Boston University School of Public Health, 715 Albany Street, TW2, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA
  1. Dr Michael Siegel. email: mbsiegel{at}


OBJECTIVE To examine the framing of tobacco policy issues in the news media during the national tobacco settlement debate of 1997–98. The major aims were (1) to describe the extent of newspaper coverage of each of the specific components of the proposed tobacco settlement; (2) to identify the tobacco control frames, and the dominant frame, appearing in each newspaper article; and (3) to examine trends in tobacco control frames over time.

DESIGN A content analysis was performed on 117 articles related to national tobacco legislation appearing in the Washington Post from 1 January 1997 through 18 June 1998.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES (1) Major policy themes of the settlement referred to or implied in each article; (2) major frames used to discuss the problem of tobacco in each article.

RESULTS The generation of new revenue was the dominant theme of the articles, appearing as a major focus in 44% (52) of the articles. Other than the issues of Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco and restrictions on cigarette advertising, the public health policy aspects of the tobacco settlement received little attention. The problem of tobacco was portrayed as one of youth smoking in 55% (64) of the articles, but as one of a deadly product in none of the articles.

CONCLUSIONS Future discussions of comprehensive tobacco policy should be driven by a more specific discussion of the precise programme and policy mechanisms by which tobacco use can be most effectively prevented and controlled. The public health community must find ways to frame the tobacco issue more broadly than simply as one of youth smoking.

  • legislation
  • newspapers
  • public policy

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