This article presents the findings of an assessment of media advocacy activities implemented by the Florida Tobacco Control Program to determine whether they contributed to increased news coverage, policy changes and reductions in youth smoking. A content analysis of news coverage appearing in Florida newspapers between April 22, 1998, and December 31, 2001, was conducted and patterns of coverage before and after the implementation of media advocacy efforts to promote tobacco product placement ordinances were compared. Event history analysis was used to assess whether news coverage increased the probability of enacting these ordinances in 23 of 67 Florida counties and ordinary least square (OLS) regression was used to gauge the effect of these policies on changes in youth smoking prevalence.
The study found that the volume of program-related news coverage decreased after the onset of media advocacy efforts, but the ratio of coverage about Students Working Against Tobacco (the Florida Tobacco Control Program's youth advocacy organization) relative to other topics increased. News coverage contributed to the passage of tobacco product placement ordinances in Florida counties, but these ordinances did not lead to reduced youth smoking.
This study adds to the growing literature supporting the use of media advocacy as a tool to change health-related policies. However, results suggest caution in choosing policy goals that may or may not influence health behavior.