Background: This study aims to show how smokers were represented in smoking-related news articles, editorials, letters and columns in a major Australian newspaper over an 11-year period from January 1995 to December 2005.
Methods: Qualitative content analysis was conducted on a sample of 618 articles to identify 21 representational categories (RCs) of the smoker. Articles were also examined for statements that lent organisational support to either tobacco control or the promotion of tobacco.
Results: The construction of the smoker as a “regulated citizen” due to being subjected to tobacco policy was the most prevalent RC, occurring in 43.4% of articles. Of the 13 most prevalent RCs, eight were constructions of the smoker that lent support to tobacco control outcomes, two were supportive of the promotion of tobacco, and three could be used by both parties. 30.6% of articles contained at least one statement from a tobacco control advocacy source, compared with only 13.6% of articles having a statement towards the promotion of tobacco.
Conclusion: These results indicate that constructions of the smoker that support tobacco control have dominated smoking-related discourse in this Australian newspaper and that representations favouring a tobacco industry viewpoint appeared less often. However, the pro-tobacco representations of smokers in reports relating to legal issues highlight an area of media discourse in which tobacco control advocates should remain vigilant.
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