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Nicotine Tob Res. 2018 Jul 9;20(8):1015-1019. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntx170.

Content Analysis of US News Stories About E-Cigarettes in 2015.

Author information

1
Department of Health Education & Behavioral Science, Center for Tobacco Studies, Rutgers School of Public Health, Piscataway, NJ.
2
Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York, NY.
3
Department of Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.

Abstract

Background:

Coverage of e-cigarettes in the news media may shape public perceptions about them but little is known about such news content. This content analysis characterized discussion of e-cigarettes in leading print and online US news sources in 2015.

Methods:

We searched Access World News and Factiva databases for e-cigarette-related news articles appearing in the top 30 circulating newspapers, 4 newswires, and 4 online news sources in the United States in 2015 (n = 295). Coders identified the presence of various e-cigarette topics (e.g. regulation), and benefit and risk statements.

Results:

Nearly half of articles (45.1%) focused primarily on e-cigarette policy/regulatory issues, although e-cigarette prevalence (21.0%) and health effects (21.7%) were common main topics. Concerns about youth were frequently mentioned, including the rise in youth e-cigarette use (45.4%), gateway to smoking potential (33.9%) and appeal of flavors (22.4%). Youth e-cigarette prevalence was more frequently mentioned than adult prevalence in articles discussing FDA regulation (61% vs. 13.5%, respectively). News articles more frequently discussed potential e-cigarette risks or concerns (80%) than benefits (45.4%), such as smoking harm-reduction. Quoted physicians, researchers, and government representatives were more likely to refer to e-cigarette risks than benefits.

Conclusions:

In 2015, rising rates of e-cigarette use among youth and policy strategies to address e-cigarettes dominated US e-cigarette news stories, leading up to their FDA regulation in 2016. Statements about e-cigarettes' potential risks were frequently attributed to trusted sources such as physicians, and outnumbered claims about their harm-reduction benefits. Such coverage may impact e-cigarette risk perceptions, use intentions and policy support.

Implications:

In the year leading up to the FDA's Deeming Rule, concerns about youth use or potential use were frequently discussed in e-cigarette news. News articles more frequently discussed potential e-cigarette risks/concerns compared to potential harm-reduction benefits relative to tobacco cigarettes. While such coverage may inform the public about potential e-cigarette risks, they may also contribute to increasing perceptions that e-cigarettes are as harmful as tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarette risk and benefit statements were most frequently made by or attributed to researchers and physicians in articles, which is significant given that they may be particularly trusted sources of e-cigarette risk information.

PMID:
29065205
PMCID:
PMC6037126
[Available on 2019-07-09]
DOI:
10.1093/ntr/ntx170

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