2023’s World No Tobacco Day, a global initiative steered by the World Health Organization (WHO), has once again sparked conversations about the multifaceted issue of tobacco use. As we dissect top stories and key players, we explore the shifting landscape of the global tobacco industry, with an emphasis on governmental support and corporate accountability.
Our analysis leverages data from 1.9k articles published between May 29th and 31st, providing a comprehensive view of the narratives moulding public health policies and the tobacco industry.
Most Mentioned Organizations
In the lead-up to World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) set forth a series of themes to amplify the campaign’s key messages. These themes resonated strongly in mainstream media, contributing to the global discourse on tobacco cultivation. Here’s our analysis of how these themes were reflected in the coverage:
Food Insecurity and Land Use (27% of Coverage)
The topic of “Food Insecurity and Land Use” discusses the global concern of tobacco cultivation occupying valuable land that could otherwise be used for growing food crops. It was often linked to the World No Tobacco Day’s theme, “Grow food, not tobacco” which was widely endorsed by media outlets and quoted individuals. However, the coverage did not highlight any direct actions taken to address the issue of food insecurity and land use.
Government Support and Subsidies (19% of Coverage)
This theme focused on the role of governments in supporting tobacco regulation and helping tobacco farmers switch to alternative crops. Initiatives such as India’s regulation of anti-tobacco warnings on OTT platforms, and Hong Kong’s distribution of free nicotine patch trial kits as part of a public anti-smoking drive showcased the government’s support for tobacco regulation.
Nutritious Food Crops and Livelihoods (13% of Coverage)
This theme explored the potential benefits of transitioning from tobacco to nutritious food crops. Such a shift, as the coverage suggested, could feed millions of families, and enhance the livelihoods of farming communities worldwide. Various outlets highlighted this point, discussing how tobacco control advocates urged authorities to phase out tobacco farming to achieve food security.
Economic Impact and Profitability (7% of Coverage)
The coverage emphasized that contrary to the tobacco industry’s claims, tobacco cultivation does not yield the economic benefits it is often purported to. For instance, an article by Jagran Josh discussed the financial implications of tobacco cultivation, aiming to counter the opposite perspective where tobacco is viewed as a highly profitable crop for farmers or governments.
These themes reveal critical aspects of the global tobacco discourse and are leading to a significant increase in awareness about the issue of tobacco cultivation as raised by the WHO.
Top Stories and Their Impact
Several stories surfaced in conjunction with World No Tobacco Day, further supporting the WHO’s initiative in raising awareness of tobacco cultivation. The following are the top stories that significantly piqued media interest and shaped the media narrative.
India and Sweden: Emerging Countries in Tobacco Control
One of the interesting narratives during World No Tobacco Day 2023 was India’s regulation of anti-tobacco warnings on OTT platforms. Binoy Mathew, program manager at the Voluntary Health Association of India, celebrated this move as a pioneering step. Through this initiative, India has positioned itself as a global leader in tobacco control, exemplifying the government’s proactive approach to harnessing digital platforms for public health advocacy.
In parallel, Sweden has been making significant strides towards becoming Europe’s first smoke-free country, another significant narrative that was announced during the event. Ulrika Årehed, secretary-general of the Swedish Cancer Society, spotlighted the nation’s progressive public smoking restrictions, which in hand decreased the number of smokers to less than 5% of the population. The twist in the tale is the mention of Philip Morris International (PMI) and their exploration of alternative tobacco use methods such as Sweden’s smoke-free tobacco product, Snus, highlighting their potential role in carving out a smoke-free future.
Canada and Hong Kong: Public Demand and Health Initiatives
In Canada, public demand for Big Tobacco to fund reduction initiatives caught the media’s attention, reflecting an increased societal consciousness and expectation for accountability from tobacco companies. Andrea Seale, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society, passionately voiced concerns over the absence of health organizations from negotiation tables. This narrative, which sits under the umbrella of the theme “Government Support and Subsidies,” underscores the influence these discussions could wield over the future of the tobacco industry.
In a similar vein, Hong Kong’s public health drive to distribute 5,000 free nicotine patch trial kits at local pharmacies was hailed as a revolutionary step towards a smoke-free city. Dr. Fung Ying, head of the office for the Hong Kong Department of Health stated, “The Department of Health collaborated with more than 200 outlets and local pharmacists to distribute the kits, which offer a week’s worth of patches, to anyone registered with the organization’s Quit Smoking App”. This initiative, backed by the Government Support and Subsidies theme, demonstrates the significant role of public health initiatives and government support in regulating tobacco use.
Most Mentioned Organizations
The World Health Organization (45% SOV)
The World Health Organization carried a significant role in the narrative and lead the coverage of World No Tobacco Day 2023 with a 45% share of voice. The WHO’s focus in the coverage was raising awareness and it was often cited in the context of advocating for the reduction of harms from tobacco and ensuring food security. For instance, the media outlet Health Economic Times discussed the WHO’s role in promoting alternative livelihoods for tobacco farmers to reduce tobacco use and enhance food security, while media outlet MSN India shared the WHO’s recently released Global Youth Tobacco Survey in India, urging public health organizations to collaborate on World No Tobacco Day.
United Nations (UN) (7% SOV)
The United Nations, with a 7% SOV, played a significant role in the event and was frequently recognized for endorsing the WHO’s theme of “Grow food, not tobacco”. This endorsement reflects the UN’s dedication to addressing global food insecurity and promoting sustainable agriculture. An article on VN Explorer emphasized this point, discussing how tobacco control advocates urged authorities to phase out tobacco farming to achieve food security.
Interestingly, the media narrative falls in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those related to ending poverty, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture. In addition, the UN Secretary-General’s message on World No Tobacco Day echoed the need to address the global tobacco epidemic and its impact on public health, among the youth and in low-income countries.
Philip Morris International (4% SOV)
Philip Morris International, with a 4% SOV, was prominently mentioned in the context of Sweden’s progress toward becoming the first smoke-free country. The media narrative discussed PMI’s acquisition of Swedish Match which was seen as a strategic move towards promoting less harmful alternatives to smoking, such as snus and e-cigarettes. Patrik Hildingsson, a spokesman for Swedish Match, was quoted in the media saying that policymakers should encourage the tobacco industry to develop less harmful alternatives to smoking, further supporting PMI’s commitment to providing smokers with less harmful alternatives.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (3% SOV)
The CDC’s crucial role in public education on smoking and vaping dangers highlighted the harmful effects of tobacco use, including diseases and disabilities affecting various organs. The media also emphasizes the CDC’s warning on the risks of second-hand smoking and their findings on e-cigarettes, showcasing harmful substances like nicotine, ultrafine particles, and cancer-causing chemicals.
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (2% SOV)
The NHS, on the other hand, was portrayed as a key player in the fight against tobacco use in the UK. The coverage focused on their efforts to raise awareness about the health impacts of smoking, along with resources available to quit the habit. The NHS’s narrative exemplifies its role in providing support and guidance to those seeking to quit.
In conclusion, we can grasp the intricate relationship between society, corporations, and government in addressing complex global health issues.
From India’s regulation of anti-tobacco warnings on OTT platforms, Sweden’s progress towards becoming the first smoke-free country, to the media’s portrayal of influential organizations like the WHO, UN, and Philip Morris International, World No Tobacco Day 2023 has once again brought the global issue of tobacco use into sharp focus. The media’s positioning of these stories and organizations highlights the significant role of government support, public health initiatives, and corporate accountability in shaping the future narrative of the tobacco industry and public health policies.
A Note on Methodology:
CARMA analysed 1900 articles published between May 29th and May 31st. This study relies on the utilization of CARMA’s technology and third-party data, which are collected through automated means.