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Newspaper Coverage of Youth and Tobacco: Implications for Public Health

Clegg-Smith K and Wakefield MA. Health Communication, 19(1): 19-28, 2006.

The presentation of smoking as a “youth” issue is a powerful component of current tobacco-control efforts. Agenda setting theory demonstrates that the media serve as a potent forum in which the consideration and presentation of perspectives of social problems take place. This analysis of 643 U.S. youth-focused newspaper articles examines the messages being conveyed to the public and policymakers through coverage of tobacco issues focused on youth. Data illustrate that the issue of youth tobacco use is newsworthy but also suggest that youth-focused issues garner little commentary coverage. Rather, straightforward reports of “feel good” stories dominate the coverage, and youth-focused articles tend to conceptualize the problem of tobacco as being one of a need for greater individual-level education rather than structural or policy changes.

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