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Tobacco imagery on prime time UK television

Lyons, Ailsa; McNeill, Ann; Britton, John


Ailsa Lyons

Ann McNeill

John Britton


Background: Smoking in ?lms is a common and well
documented cause of youth smoking experimentation
and uptake and hence a signi?cant health hazard. The
extent of exposure of young people to tobacco imagery
in television programming has to date been far less
investigated. We have therefore measured the extent to
which tobacco content occurs in prime time UK
television, and estimated exposure of UK youth.
Methods: The occurrence of tobacco, categorised as
actual tobacco use, implied tobacco use, tobacco
paraphernalia, other reference to tobacco, tobacco brand
appearances or any of these, occurring in all prime time
broadcasting on the ?ve most popularly viewed UK
television stations during 3 separate weeks in 2010 were
measured by 1-minute interval coding. Youth exposure
to tobacco content in the UK was estimated using media
viewing ?gures.
Findings: Actual tobacco use, predominantly cigarette
smoking, occurred in 73 of 613 (12%) programmes,
particularly in feature ?lms and reality TV. Brand
appearances were rare, occurring in only 18
programmes, of which 12 were news or other factual
genres, and 6 were episodes of the same British soap
opera. Tobacco occurred with similar frequency before as
after 21:00, the UK watershed for programmes suitable
for youth. The estimated number of incidences of
exposure of the audience aged less than 18 years for
any tobacco, actual tobacco use and tobacco branding
were 59 million, 16 million and 3 million, respectively on
average per week.
Conclusions: Television programming is a source of
signi?cant exposure of youth to tobacco imagery, before
and after the watershed. Tobacco branding is particularly
common in Coronation Street, a soap opera popular
among youth audiences. More stringent controls on
tobacco in prime time television therefore have the
potential to reduce the uptake of youth smoking in
the UK.


Lyons, A., McNeill, A., & Britton, J. (2013). Tobacco imagery on prime time UK television. Tobacco Control,

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 11, 2013
Deposit Date Mar 27, 2014
Publicly Available Date Mar 27, 2014
Journal Tobacco Control
Print ISSN 0964-4563
Electronic ISSN 1468-3318
Publisher BMJ Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information To cite: Lyons A, McNeill A, Britton J. Tob Control Published Online First:[11th March 2013] doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050650


Tob_Control-2013-Lyons-tobaccocontrol-2012-050650.pdf (413 Kb)

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