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‘Being politically active does not have to be difficult.’ A content analysis of tobacco industry-sponsored advocacy websites

Abstract

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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