Smoking-related disease on Australian television news

Inaccurate portrayals may contribute to public misconceptions

Ross MacKenzie, Nathalie Johnson, Simon Chapman*, Simon Holding

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To describe the range and frequency of reportage of tobacco-related disease on Australian television news. Methods: Content analysis of all news items mentioning smoking-related disease broadcast on five free-to-air Sydney television channels 2 May 2005 to 31 December 2007. Results: Three in four tobacco-related disease news reports focus on lung cancer. Other cancers and smoking attributable diseases attract modest coverage. Conclusion: Television news coverage may contribute to public misconceptions regarding the associated health risks of smoking, limiting understanding about the many risks involved. Tobacco control advocates should seek to increase the newsworthiness of diseases in addition to lung cancer. Implications: While the Australian public is generally aware of the connection between lung cancer and tobacco, considerable misconception exists as to the broad range of tobacco-related mortality and disease. Given television's role as a key source of public information on health issues in Australia, such coverage can limit understanding about the many attributable risks involved. Tobacco control advocates need to find ways to improve the newsworthiness of tobacco related illness. Journal Compilation

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-146
Number of pages3
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes

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