Vulnerable children, stigmatised smokers: the social construction of target audiences in media debates on policies regulating smoking in vehicles

Bain, J., Weishaar, H., Semple, S., Duffy, S. and Hilton, S. (2017) Vulnerable children, stigmatised smokers: the social construction of target audiences in media debates on policies regulating smoking in vehicles. Health, 21(6), pp. 633-649. (doi: 10.1177/1363459316633279) (PMID:27457688) (PMCID:PMC5639949)

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Following restrictions on smoking in vehicles carrying children in several countries, legislation to safeguard minors from second-hand smoke exposure in vehicles is under-consideration or has been implemented across the United Kingdom. This article presents the first investigation into social constructions of children, smokers and smoking parents in newsprint media and coverage of debates about protecting children from exposure to second-hand smoke in vehicles. Using Scotland as an example, articles on children’s exposure to second-hand smoke published between 1 January 2004 and 16 February 2014 in three Scottish newspapers were identified using Nexis UK. In all, 131 articles were thematically coded and analysed. Children were portrayed as vulnerable and requiring protection, with few articles highlighting children’s ability to voice concerns about the dangers of smoking. Smokers and smoking parents were mainly portrayed in a factual manner, but also frequently as irresponsible and, in some cases, intentionally imposing harm. Individual smokers were blamed for their recklessness, with only a small number of articles mentioning the need to assist smokers in quitting. Supporters of legislation focused on corresponding discourse, whereas critics directed debates towards established arguments against policy, including individual freedom, privacy and problems of enforcement. Focusing on children’s vulnerability to second-hand smoke might have increased support for legislation but risked a side effect of smokers being stigmatised. The media and supporters of public health policy are encouraged to consider appropriate approaches to raise awareness of the health harms of second-hand smoke to children while avoiding unintended stigmatisation of those in which they want to encourage behaviour change.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Also supported by funding: Uk Medical Research Council as part of the Understandings and Uses of Public Health Research programme (grant MC_A540_5Tk70) at the MRC/CSo Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hilton, Professor Shona and Bain, Mr Josh and Weishaar, Dr Heide
Authors: Bain, J., Weishaar, H., Semple, S., Duffy, S., and Hilton, S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Health
ISSN (Online):1461-7196
Published Online:24 July 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Authors
First Published:First published in Health 21(6):633-649
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
647551Children's exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke: An analysis of newspaper coverage 2002-2012. Does ti tell us about the direction future policy should be going?Shona HiltonCancer Research UK (CAN-RES-UK)16930IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
727671SPHSU Core Renewal: Informing Healthy Public Policy Research ProgrammePeter CraigMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/15IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU