Abstract

Background

Whilst many countries have introduced legislation prohibiting tobacco advertising and sponsorship, references to tobacco continue to appear in the media. This study quantified and characterized tobacco smoking content in popular women's magazines.

Methods

The 10 top weekly and 5 monthly women's magazines most popular among 15–34 year olds in Britain published over a 3-month period were included. A content analysis was conducted for both written and visual content.

Results

In 146 magazines, there were 310 instances of tobacco content, the majority of which were positive towards smoking. Instances of celebrities smoking were most common (171, 55%), often in holiday or party settings that could be perceived to be luxurious, glamorous or fun. In all, 55 (18%) tobacco references related to fashion, which generally created an impression of smoking as a norm within the industry; and 34 (11%) text and image references to tobacco in TV and film. There were 50 (16%) reader-initiated mentions of smoking, typically in real-life stories or readers writing in to seek advice about smoking. Anti-smoking references including the hazards of smoking were infrequent (49; 16%).

Conclusions

Although tobacco advertising is prohibited in Britain, women's magazines still appear to be promoting positive messages about tobacco and smoking.

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