Framing responsibility: Coverage of lung cancer among smokers and non-smokers in Australian television news

Ross MacKenzie, Simon Chapman, Simon Holding*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To analyse news portrayals of lung cancer and associated inferences about responsibility in Australian television news. Methods: Analysis of television news reports, broadcast on Sydney's five free-to-air television channels between 2 May 2005 and 31 August 2009, for all statements pertaining to lung cancer. Results: Of 2,042 reports mentioning any cancer, 45 made reference to lung cancer, and 28 (62%) referred to diagnoses of lung cancer in non-smokers. Of 157 statements in these reports, 107 (68%) noted that the person featured was a non-smoker. Nonsmokers were portrayed sympathetically and as tragic victims, implying they were not responsible for their condition, the subtext being that smokers are responsible for theirs. Conclusions: Television news portrays non-smokers with lung cancer with considerable sympathy. Conversely, smokers are implicitly and occasionally explicitly depicted as responsible for their disease. Implications: The marginalisation of tobacco caused lung cancer in news, together with sympathetic reporting of lung cancer in non-smokers may contribute to stigma surrounding smoking caused disease that may promote delay in seeking treatment, and de-emphasise the role of the tobacco industry's decadeslong smoker reassurance program in promoting smoking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-70
Number of pages5
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


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