The purpose of this study was to determine to what extent Chinese media coverage of tobacco issues in 17 Chinese cities comprises messaging known to motivate healthy behaviour.Methods
This study involved a content analysis of 4821 articles that contained at least one full paragraph focused on tobacco issues from newspapers published in cities that participated in the Tobacco-Free City—Gates Tobacco Control Project in China between 1 January 2008 and 30 June 2011.Results
The number of tobacco-focused articles increased over the study period. The number of articles varied considerably among different newspapers and cities. Education, prevention and cessation programs (35%) were the most frequent theme. There was also considerable variation in the volume of coverage each month. News articles were the most frequent article type (70%). The majority of the articles (72%) were positive for tobacco control. There were significant differences between party newspapers and local newspapers in prominence, article type, slant and fear appeal. One quarter (n=729) of the articles mentioned the severity of tobacco use, while only 10% of the articles referred to susceptibility to the threat.Conclusions
The coverage of events was predominantly positive toward tobacco control. However, media reports could better support tobacco control efforts if they did a better job at provoking an emotional response to the harms of tobacco use and promoting a sense among smokers that they can succeed in quitting smoking.