Framing the policy debate over tobacco control legislation and tobacco taxation in South Africa

Mateusz Zygmunt Zatoński*, Catherine O. Egbe, Lindsay Robertson, Anna Gilmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background In 2018, South Africa opened public consultations on its newly proposed tobacco control bill, resulting in substantial public debate in which a range of arguments, either in favour of or against the Bill, was advanced. These were accompanied by the recurring discussions about the annual adjustments in tobacco taxation. This study uses the concept of framing to examine the public debate in South African print media on the potential effects of the legislation, as well as tobacco tax regulations, between their proponents and detractors. Methods A systematic search of news articles using multiple data sources identified 132 media articles published between January 2018 and September 2019 that met the inclusion criteria. Results Seven overarching frames were identified as characterising the media debate, with the three dominant frames being Economic, Harm reduction and vaping, and Health. The leading Economic frame consisted primarily of arguments unsupportive of tobacco control legislation. Economic arguments were promoted by tobacco industry spokespeople, trade unions, organisations of retailers, media celebrities and think tanks—several of which have been identified as front groups or third-party lobbyists for the tobacco industry. Conclusion The dominance of economic arguments opposing tobacco control legislation risks undermining tobacco control progress. Local and global tobacco control advocates should seek to build relationships with media, as well as collate and disseminate effective counterarguments to those advanced by the industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)450-457
Number of pages8
JournalTobacco Control
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


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