The new pariahs: discourse on the tobacco industry in the Sydney press, 1993-97

Aust N Z J Public Health. 1999 Jun;23(3):233-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.1999.tb01248.x.


Objective: To review the principal sub-texts contained in all press coverage and references to the tobacco industry in a major Sydney newspaper over five years.

Method and sample: After excluding value-neutral financial page reports, thematic analysis of all value-laden references to the tobacco industry in the Sydney Morning Herald, January 1993 to December 1997.

Results: Some 155 articles containing 221 separate references to the tobacco industry were identified. Eight sub-texts (callous merchants of death; conspiracy/cover-up; blood money; toxic pied pipers; corporate leviathans; beleaguered/legitimate industry; index case of unethical or corrupt practice; and bumbling fools) accounted for all 221 references. Eighty-nine per cent of references to the industry framed it negatively. Journalists or regular newspaper columnists authored 56% of the references. Only 5% of comments were attributed to tobacco company sources.

Conclusions: In press reports, the tobacco industry is routinely framed as a corporate pariah by journalists, the public, government spokespeople and tobacco control advocates.

Implications: Routine negative publicity about the tobacco industry is likely to significantly reduce its public credibility and political influence.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Humans
  • Industry*
  • Nicotiana*
  • Periodicals as Topic*
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Public Opinion