Communicating contentious health policy: lessons from Ireland's workplace smoking ban

Health Promot Pract. 2012 May;13(3):331-8. doi: 10.1177/1524839909341554. Epub 2009 Oct 8.


The Irish workplace smoking ban has been described as possibly a tipping point for public health worldwide. This article presents the first analysis of the newspaper coverage of the ban over the duration of the policy formation process. It adds to previous studies by analyzing how health communication strategists engaged, over time, with a newsworthy topic, viewed as being culturally controversial. It analyzes a sample of media content (n = 1,154) and firsthand accounts from pro-ban campaigners and journalists (n = 10). The analysis shows that the ban was covered not primarily as a health issue: Economic, political, social, democratic, and technical aspects also received significant attention. It shows how coverage followed controversy and examines how pro-ban campaigners countered effectively the anti-ban communication efforts of influential social actors in the economic and political spheres. The analysis demonstrates that medical-political sources successfully defined the ban's issues as centrally concerned with public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / prevention & control
  • Communication*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Ireland
  • Newspapers as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Occupational Exposure / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control
  • Policy Making
  • Politics
  • Public Health / economics
  • Public Health / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / prevention & control
  • Workplace / legislation & jurisprudence*


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution