Background: Coverage of e-cigarettes in the news media may shape public perceptions about them but little is known about such news content.This content analysis characterized discussion of e-cigarettes in leading print and online US news sources in 2015. Methods: We searched Access World News and Factiva databases for e-cigarette-related news articles appearing in the top 30 circulating newspapers, 4 newswires, and 4 online news sources in the United States in 2015 (n = 295). Coders identified the presence of various e-cigarette topics (e.g. regulation), and benefit and risk statements. Results: Nearly half of articles (45.1%) focused primarily on e-cigarette policy/regulatory issues, although e-cigarette prevalence (21.0%) and health effects (21.7%) were common main topics. Concerns about youth were frequently mentioned, including the rise in youth e-cigarette use (45.4%), gateway to smoking potential (33.9%) and appeal of flavors (22.4%). Youth e-cigarette prevalence was more frequently mentioned than adult prevalence in articles discussing FDA regulation (61% vs. 13.5%, respectively). News articles more frequently discussed potential e-cigarette risks or concerns (80%) than benefits (45.4%), such as smoking harm-reduction. Quoted physicians, researchers, and government representatives were more likely to refer to e-cigarette risks than benefits. Conclusions: In 2015, rising rates of e-cigarette use among youth and policy strategies to address e-cigarettes dominated US e-cigarette news stories, leading up to their FDA regulation in 2016. Statements about e-cigarettes' potential risks were frequently attributed to trusted sources such as physicians, and outnumbered claims about their harm-reduction benefits. Such coverage may impact e-cigarette risk perceptions, use intentions and policy support. Implications: In the year leading up to the FDA's Deeming Rule, concerns about youth use or potential use were frequently discussed in e-cigarette news. News articles more frequently discussed potential e-cigarette risks/concerns compared to potential harm-reduction benefits relative to tobacco cigarettes. While such coverage may inform the public about potential e-cigarette risks, they may also contribute to increasing perceptions that e-cigarettes are as harmful as tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarette risk and benefit statements were most frequently made by or attributed to researchers and physicians in articles, which is significant given that they may be particularly trusted sources of e-cigarette risk information.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health