Objective: To assess the influence of newspaper coverage and a media campaign about Dutch smoke-free legislation on smokers’ support for smoke-free bars and restaurants and on second-hand smoke (SHS) harm awareness.
Design and main outcome measures: A content analysis was conducted of 1,041 newspaper articles on the smoke-free legislation published in six Dutch newspapers from March 2008 until April 2009. Smokers who were regular readers of at least one of these newspapers (n = 677) were selected from the pre- and post-ban waves of the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Netherlands Survey. Exposure to newspaper coverage and to the implementation campaign were correlated with changes in smokers’ support for smoke-free bars and restaurants and SHS harm awareness.
Results: Most newspaper coverage was found to be negative towards the smoking ban (57%) and focused on economic aspects (59%) rather than health aspects (22%). Exposure to this coverage had a small but significantly negative effect on support for smoke-free bars and restaurants (Beta = -0.09, p = 0.013). Among higher educated smokers, exposure to positive newspaper coverage had a more positive effect on support for smoke-free bars and restaurants. In addition, exposure to the implementation campaign had a small but significantly positive effect on SHS harm awareness (Beta = 0.11, p = 0.001).
Conclusions: Media attention about smoke-free legislation can influence smokers’ support for the legislation and SHS harm awareness. Tobacco control advocates should aim to establish positive media attention that puts forward the health arguments for the legislation.