Tobacco plain packaging coverage in Australian newspapers 2008-2014
Jo Dono 1,2
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South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Australia
University of Adelaide, Australia
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A97
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In 2012 Australia was the first country in the world to implement plain tobacco packaging. Both public health agencies and the tobacco industry advocated their position on the legislation in the news media. This study comprehensively documents print media coverage of the plain packaging initiative over the duration of the policy initiation and implementation.

Major Australian print newspaper (n=17) articles on plain packaging were sourced through the Australian/New Zealand Reference Centre and Factiva online databases. Articles (n=701) were collected over the 7 year duration of the policy debate and pre- and post-implementation from January 2008 to December 2014. Content analysis regarding article type, topic and frame was undertaken.

Print media coverage of plain packaging was initially low (2008-2009) and increased during the legislative process, and lead up to implementation. Print media coverage declined substantially post-implementation. News articles were the most common form of coverage (79.6%), followed by editorials (14.3%). Updates on progress of the policy were most commonly discussed (29.4%) followed by the tobacco industry's response to the proposed legislation including 'nanny state' objections (18.3%) and discussions of plain packaging as a tobacco control initiative (17.0%). As well as reporting of policy announcements, policy rationale, implementation, legal challenges and their outcomes, there was also reporting of industry arguments which centred around predictions of unintended consequences including illicit trade, youth smoking and harm to small business, as well as legal arguments about acquisition of intellectual property.

Plain packaging received significant media coverage in Australia in the years leading up to its implementation, and far less post implementation. Subsequently disproven industry predictions did receive substantial coverage, however they were countered by articles on the public health rationale and the policy's successful progression. Policy makers should expect but not be deterred by coverage of industry arguments through media.

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