Framing of News Coverage about the Marlene Sharp Legal Judgement: A Tipping Point for Smoke-Free Public Places in Australia?

ImpacTeen Research Papers

Framing of News Coverage about the Marlene Sharp Legal Judgement: A Tipping Point for Smoke-Free Public Places in Australia?
Wakefield M, Clegg Smith K, Chapman S.

Objective: To review newspaper coverage of the outcome of Marlene Sharp vs Port Kembla RSL Club, where a nonsmoking bar worker was awarded damages for laryngeal cancer caused by passive smoking.
Method: All Australian and Victorian rural newspaper coverage of the case was obtained from a commercial media monitoring agency for the month of May, 2001, yielding 100 articles for analysis. We applied content and frame analysis to the newspaper articles.
Results: Coverage of the outcome of the Marlene Sharp case was predominantly positive for tobacco control, with positive coverage (45% of articles) outweighing negative coverage (13% of articles) by a factor of 3 to 1. The most commonly occurring frame (27% of articles) advanced the view that legislation to protect workers from secondhand smoke is appropriate, even overdue, and encouraged the government to create smoke-free policies to protect workers. Other common frames positive for tobacco control included “smoking as socially unacceptable” (9%) and “smoking as a societal problem” (9%). Of articles framed negatively for tobacco control, “individual rights” (5%) and “system cynicism” were most common.
Implications: In addition to its potential for changing institutional practices, litigation brings with it an ability to give a human face to the need for smoke-free policies. The generally positive news reception accorded to the large news story of the Marlene Sharp trial may stand in time for many as “the face” or personification of the need to extend smoke-free policies to all workplaces.

Research Paper (PDF – 303KB)

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