Content analysis of Dutch newspaper coverage of three tobacco control policies, 2017-2019

Nikita L. Poole, Barbara van Straaten, Floor A. van den Brand, Anna B. Gilmore, Marc C. Willemsen, Gera E. Nagelhout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: News media coverage can influence support for and implementation of tobacco control policies. This research aims to analyse and compare newspaper coverage of newly implemented policies: a substantial tobacco tax increase, point-of-sale display ban and plain packaging. DESIGN: We conducted a content analysis of articles covering the three policies from ten national Dutch newspapers. Articles published between November 2017 and November 2019 were coded for type and tone. The policy dystopia model was used to code arguments opposing the policies. Tobacco industry appearances in news articles were also analysed for frequency and type. RESULTS: A total of 134 news articles were analysed, of which the industry appeared in 28%. The majority of coverage was neutral in tone, although among articles that were coded as expressing a positive or negative tone, plain packaging and the point-of-sale ban were portrayed more negatively than positively. Negative coverage was predominantly accounted for by industry presence. Arguments opposing the policies focused on negative economic consequences, challenging the need for policy and adverse consequences for retailers for tax, plain packaging and the point-of-sale display ban, respectively. We identified six specific new arguments that fit within existing domains of the policy dystopia model. CONCLUSIONS: The tobacco industry and its allies still appear in a substantial proportion of news articles in relation to tobacco policy. This study identifies contemporary industry arguments against tobacco control policies in Europe which, alongside the policy dystopia model, can be used to predict and counter the tobacco industry's future attempts to oppose policies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere057912
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number2
Early online date10 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Dutch Lung Fund, the Heart Foundation, the Dutch Cancer Society, the Thrombosis Foundation and the Diabetes Fund (#

Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request. Data are available on reasonable request. Articles used in this study can be obtained from the LexisNexis database. Data concerning the articles included in the study may be requested from the corresponding author.


  • JOURNALISM (see Medical Journalism)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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