The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
PM helped design the study, oversaw the coding and analysis, wrote the second draft of the paper and edited all subsequent drafts. NO coded, analyzed, and managed the data, wrote the first draft of the paper and edited subsequent drafts. VY and SF coded the data and edited paper drafts. RM conceptualized the study, oversaw the creation of the initial codebook, and edited all paper drafts. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
News media are key sources of information regarding tobacco issues, and help set the tobacco control policy agenda. We examined US news coverage of voluntarily smokefree restaurants and bars in locales without mandatory policies to understand how such initiatives are perceived.
We searched three online media databases (Access World News, Lexis Nexis, and Proquest) for all news items, including opinion pieces, published from 1995 to 2011. We coded retrieved items quantitatively, analyzing the volume, type, provenance, prominence, and content of news coverage.
We found 986 news items, most published in local newspapers. News items conveyed unambiguous support for voluntarily smokefree establishments, regardless of venue. Mandatory policies were also frequently mentioned, and portrayed positively or neutrally. Restaurant items were more likely to mention health-related benefits of going smokefree, with bar items more likely to mention business-related benefits.
Voluntary smokefree rules in bars and restaurants are regarded by news media as reasonable responses to health and business-based concerns about worker and customer exposure to secondhand smoke. As efforts continue to enact comprehensive smokefree policies to protect all in such venues, the media are likely to be supportive partners in the advocacy process, helping to generate public and policymaker support.