Israeli news media coverage of COVID-19 and use of cannabis and tobacco: A case study of inconsistent risk communication

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Background: There is continued scientific debate regarding the link between risk of COVID-19 infection and increased disease severity and tobacco and cannabis use. The way this topic is presented in news media coverage may influence public attitudes and behavior and is thus an important topic of investigation. This study examines (1) the extent to which Israeli news media reported a positive (i.e., protective/therapeutic), negative (i.e., harmful), or inconclusive association between three types of substance use (tobacco, medical cannabis, recreational cannabis) and risk of COVID-19 infection and/or increased disease severity, and (2) the extent that this media coverage refers to scientific research. Methods: A quantitative content analysis of news articles related to tobacco and cannabis use and COVID-19 (N = 113) from eleven of the highest circulation newspapers in Israel. Results: News items were significantly more likely to mention increased COVID-19 risk for tobacco use, compared to cannabis use. All medical cannabis news items reported that medical cannabis use was associated with reduced COVID-19 risk. In contrast, news items about recreational cannabis use were more likely to describe a balanced or inconclusive risk for COVID-19, or increased risk. The majority of articles referred to scientific research. Conclusion: While Israeli news media reported a relatively consistent message about the increased risk of COVID-19 in relation to tobacco use, messages about cannabis use were less consistent in communicating risk information. Research should examine effects of media coverage of tobacco and cannabis use and COVID-19 on public perceptions and behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103648
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.


  • COVID-19
  • Content analyses
  • Mass media
  • Medical cannabis
  • Recreational cannabis
  • Risk communication
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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