Although popular women's magazines state that they have a commitment to general health coverage, they fail to cover the number one cause of cancer death in women lung cancer according to a new study by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). Further, women's magazines publish a significant number of cigarette advertisements, while neglecting to include basic information on the negative health-related consequences of cigarette smoking.
For years ACSH has surveyed the accuracy and relevance of health and smoking coverage in popular women's magazines. Over the past decade these surveys have noted significant improvements in the magazines' health coverage. Despite this progress, however, ACSH's most recent survey
found that popular women's magazines continue to downplay the hazards of cigarette smoking. This latest survey covered a 13-month period, from August 1999 though August 2000. The 12 magazines included in the analysis were Cosmopolitan, Elle, Family Circle, Glamour, Harper's Bazaar, Ladies' Home Journal, Mademoiselle, McCall's, Redbook, Self, Vogue, and Woman's Day. These magazines were chosen based on their large numbers of women readers.
This ACSH study revealed that there was not much improvement in recent smoking-related health coverage. Among the magazines analyzed, there were 2,414 health-related articles published, and only 24 articles less than one percent addressed the health effects of tobacco. A mere three articles discussed lung cancer. There was also a disparity of anti-smoking articles among the magazines: Self accounted for the majority of the anti-smoking articles (54 percent), while both Vogue and Glamour had none. The remaining magazines each had one anti-smoking article, with the exceptions of Family Circle and McCall's, which each had two.
For the period studied, the total ratio of cigarette ad pages to anti-smoking articles was 30:1. There was an average of 4.5 cigarette ads per magazine issue, and only 4 of the 12 magazines published anti-tobacco ads. The highest ratio that is, the worst was Cosmopolitan, with 128 cigarette ads for every anti-smoking article, followed by Glamour, with 115 cigarette ads and no articles.
Out of all the magazines analyzed, Self illustrated the greatest commitment to women's health by carrying the lowest number of tobacco advertisements (12) and the highest number of anti-smoking messages (26) of all the magazines. Thus, the total number of anti-smoking messages in Self magazine was more than double the number of cigarette ads.
While magazines such as Self are improving, others, such as Vogue, are regressing. This survey found over half of the issues of Vogue included pictures of models and famous people smoking. There were no anti-smoking articles in any of the issues, and only 3 anti-smoking mentions.
"Contrary to popular belief, lung cancer, not breast cancer, is the leading cause of cancer death among women. This study demonstrates the lack of coverage of lung cancer and other health-related consequences from smoking in popular women's magazines. Meanwhile, they publish a plethora of cigarette ads and pro-smoking images that glamorize smoking," said ACSH's president, Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan. "That these magazines publish a substantial number of cigarette advertisements and health-related articles on various topics, but do not cover the health consequences related to smoking, is a disservice to their readers," she added.