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Article | Newspaper coverage of tobacco control in New Zealand

The media are among the most powerful sources of influence in modern society, and media coverage can help determine what readers perceive as the ‘norm’, and what we view as being ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘important’ or ‘insignificant’.

This study examined the media portrayal of tobacco issues over a one-year period, focussing on proposed actions to achieve the smokefree 2025 goal.



The New Zealand (NZ) government has proposed that the country be ‘Smokefree’ by 2025. This paper examines how NZ newspapers have portrayed tobacco control initiatives to achieve this goal.


We examined tobacco-related articles from NZ newspapers published between 1 November 2011 and 31 October 2012, using a coding frame to capture smoking themes, portrayal of actions and degree of support expressed for various pro- and anti- tobacco control objectives.


A total of 537 separate articles were obtained from national and regional newspapers. Six themes appeared in more than 5% of the total articles: Smokefree 2025; smokefree areas; pricing; tobacco industry; plain packaging; and cessation. Overall, articles on tobacco smoking were three times more likely to emphasise actions consonant with tobacco control objectives rather than against them, and to report them with a positive rather than negative tone.


NZ tobacco control advocates can take heart from the nature and extent of coverage of tobacco control initiatives. Opportunities for further media advocacy are discussed.


McGee, R., Bang, S. and Marsh, L. (2014). Newspaper coverage of tobacco control in New Zealand. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 38: 265–269. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12216

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For more information, please contact:
Rob McGee
University of Otago

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