Exploring electronic cigarette portrayals: a content and thematic analysis of African online news coverage
Background: Electronic cigarette usage has seen a significant increase globally in recent years, with many countries reporting a rise in users. However, the way African news portrays this phenomenon remains unclear.
Methods: This study employs a mixed-methodology approach to investigate this subject. The research focuses on news articles about electronic cigarette use obtained from AllAfrica, an online African news archive. A total of 38 online news and opinion articles published between June 2017 and June 2022 met the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Content analysis revealed prevalent codes and themes, while thematic analysis explored the association between news sources and framing.
Results: The findings indicate that articles and arguments presenting e-cigarettes in a positive light outnumber those with a negative perspective. The topic most frequently discussed is the health impact of electronic cigarettes, with health authorities often cited as news sources. However, these health authorities often lack a unified stance on the safety of e-cigarettes.
Conclusion: The study highlighted a predominant focus on the health impacts of electronic cigarettes in the analyzed articles. This emphasis on empirical evidence and scientific discussion is promising as it informs public perception and aids in shaping health policies. However, the lack of consensus among health authorities regarding the health effects of e-cigarettes presents a potential risk to public health. It can lead to confusion among policymakers, nicotine users, and the public, resulting in adverse health outcomes. Therefore, it's crucial for scientists, researchers, and public health officials, regardless of their affiliations, to promote credible scientific evidence. Additionally, news writers must rigorously assess news sources for credibility and diversity to ensure accurate and comprehensive media coverage of electronic cigarette use.