Background: Health professionals have charged that magazines that depend on revenues from cigarette advertising are less likely to publish articles on the dangers of smoking for fear of offending cigarette manufacturers. Special concern has focused on magazines directed to women. Restricted coverage of smoking hazards could lead readers to underestimate the risks of smoking in relation to other health risks.
Methods: Using logistic-regression analysis of a sample of 99 U.S. magazines published during 25 years (1959 through 1969 and 1973 through 1986), we analyzed the probability that the magazines would publish articles on the risks of smoking in relation to whether they carried advertisements for cigarettes and in relation to the proportion of their advertising revenues derived from cigarette advertisements. We controlled for other factors that might influence coverage.
Results: The probability of publishing an article on the risks of smoking in a given year was 11.9 percent for magazines that did not carry cigarette advertisements, as compared with 8.3 percent for those that did publish such advertisements (adjusted odds ratio, 0.73; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.42 to 1.30). For women's magazines alone, the probabilities were 11.7 percent and 5.0 percent, respectively (adjusted odds ratio, 0.13; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.02 to 0.69). When the proportion of revenues derived from cigarette advertising was the independent variable, the probability of publishing an article on the risks of smoking in a given year was reduced by 38 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 18 percent to 55 percent) for magazines with the average proportion of total advertising revenues derived from cigarette advertising for the entire sample of magazines (6 percent) as compared with magazines with no cigarette advertising. This relation was particularly strong in the case of women's magazines. An increase of 1 percent in the share of advertising revenue derived from cigarette advertisements decreased the probability of covering the risks of smoking by three times as much as in other magazines.
Conclusions: This study provides strong statistical evidence that cigarette advertising in magazines is associated with diminished coverage of the hazards of smoking. This is particularly true for magazines directed to women.