Background Tobacco control policies affecting the point of sale (POS) are an emerging intervention, yet POS-related news media content has not been studied.
Purpose We describe news coverage of POS tobacco control efforts and assess relationships between article characteristics, including policy domains, frames, sources, localisation and evidence present, and slant towards tobacco control efforts.
Methods High circulation state (n= 268) and national (n= 5) newspapers comprised the sampling frame. We retrieved 917 relevant POS-focused articles in newspapers from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2014. 5 raters screened and coded articles, 10% of articles were double coded, and mean inter-rater reliability (IRR) was 0.74.
Results POS coverage emphasised tobacco retailer licensing (49.1% of articles) and the most common frame present was regulation (71.3%). Government officials (52.3%), followed by tobacco retailers (39.6%), were the most frequent sources. Half of articles (51.3%) had a mixed, neutral or antitobacco control slant. Articles presenting a health frame, a greater number of protobacco control sources, and statistical evidence were significantly more likely to also have a protobacco control slant. Articles presenting a political/rights or regulation frame, a greater number of antitobacco control sources, or government, tobacco industry, tobacco retailers, or tobacco users as sources were significantly less likely to also have a protobacco control slant.
Conclusions Stories that feature procontrol sources, research evidence and a health frame also tend to support tobacco control objectives. Future research should investigate how to use data, stories and localisation to encourage a protobacco control slant, and should test relationships between content characteristics and policy progression.