Objectives: Smoking bans are a central component of comprehensive tobacco control programs, and an increasing number of states and localities have adopted them. Public support is critical as efforts continue to extend protection from secondhand smoke to all. We examine the relationship between state print news coverage of tobacco and public sentiment towards smoking bans.
Methods: We utilize two data sources: the February 2002 Current Population Survey Tobacco Use Supplement, and articles from 2 months in a database comprised of content-analyzed newspaper articles on tobacco from all daily U.S. newspapers. We control for demographic and state-level tobacco covariates, and use logistic regression to identify associations between news coverage and attitudes towards policy initiatives by smoking status.
Results: We find no association between tone of news coverage and any outcome measure and little evidence of a relationship between the volume of overall tobacco news and attitudes towards smoking bans. Our data suggest that people exposed to more news on secondhand smoke issues are less likely to support restaurant smoking bans. Higher volume of secondhand smoke news is also predictive of lower support for bar bans among recent quitters. Support for hospital bans is, however, largely independent of news coverage.
Conclusions: We suggest two alternate explanations for our findings. First, for certain people, greater news volume on secondhand smoke may lead to lower support for bans. Alternatively, secondhand smoke may be more newsworthy in states where bans are more controversial.