Barker, B. A., Britton, J., Thomson, E., & Murray, R. L. (2021). Tobacco and alcohol content in soap operas broadcast on UK television: a content analysis and population exposure. Journal of Public Health, 43(3), 595-603. 



Exposure to tobacco and alcohol content in media is a risk factor for smoking and alcohol use in young people. Our previous research suggested that tobacco and alcohol imagery is common in soap operas. We now report an analysis of tobacco and alcohol content in a sample of soap operas broadcast in the UK.


We used 1-minute interval coding to quantify tobacco and alcohol content in all episodes (including advertisement breaks) of six soap operas broadcast on UK television during three separate weeks in November and December 2018 and January 2019.


We coded 2222 intervals from 87 episodes and 360 intervals from 77 advertisement breaks. Tobacco content was rare, occurring in 4% of all intervals across 30% of episodes, the only tobacco appearances in adverts appeared in anti-smoking advertising. Alcohol occurred in 24% of intervals across 95% of episodes and in 13% of advertisement intervals. The programmes delivered ~381.28 million tobacco and 2.1 billion alcohol gross impressions to the UK population, including 18.91 million tobacco and 113 million alcohol gross impressions to children.


Whilst tobacco was rare, alcohol content was common, resulting in billions of viewer impressions. Soap operas represent a potential driver of alcohol consumption in young people.


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