Media coverage of the harms of second-hand smoke around children
Tobacco control policy debates often draw considerable interest from the media, with recent debates focusing on the harms to children from exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS). Regular exposure to SHS has been linked to damaging health effects among children.
Since 2007 legislation has prohibited smoking in all enclosed public places throughout the UK, with Scotland being the first to implement the law in 2006. In the intervening period interest has grown in considering other policy interventions to further reduce the harmful effects of SHS exposure to children. Scotland's recently published ‘Tobacco Control Strategy’ includes a commitment to reducing people’s exposure to SHS and to setting a target to reduce children’s exposure to SHS in confined spaces, such as vehicles. The private space of the vehicle is already subject to legislation, ranging from restrictions on smoking in work vehicles, mobile phone usage, laws on the use of seat belts and child-baby carriers.
In Scotland, on 28th May 2013, MSP Jim Hume proposed a draft ‘Smoking (Children in Vehicles) (Scotland) Bill’ to prohibit smoking in private vehicles. On 30th January 2014, the final proposal was lodged at the Scottish Parliament, achieving the necessary cross-party support from MSPs (at least 18 signatures). Additionally, in England on the 10th February 2014, the House of Commons passed an amendment to the Children and Families Bill, empowering ministers to introduce legislation preventing smoking in vehicles carrying children. At a devolved level the Welsh assembly has recently announced that legislation banning smoking in vehicles carrying children will be introduced, and the Northern Irish assembly has called for increased awareness about the issue.
In this newspaper analysis we investigate how the UK newsprint media are framing the current policy debate about the need for smoke-free laws to protect children from the harms of second-hand smoke exposure whilst in vehicles. Findings from this work will aim to provide public health advocates with useful insights for future communication strategies. This project was funded by Cancer Research UK and the Scottish School of Public Health Research. The work is being fed back to key policymakers and practitioners.
Hilton S, Wood K, Bain J, Patterson C, Duffy S, Semple S. Newsprint coverage of smoking in cars carrying children: a case study of public and scientific opinion driving the policy debate. BMC Public Health 2014;14:1116open access