Though drinking and driving (DUI) arrests of celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan stir up a news storm, little attention is paid to the health consequences, according to a new study.
According to Katherine Smith, PhD, lead author of the study, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Injury Research and Policy, very few articles pointed towards public health contexts.
The assistant professor with the Bloomberg School's Center for Injury Research and Policy and her team examined the stories covered by the New York Times, TIME, People and the evening news broadcasts from ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and Fox.
Smith, along with co-author Andrea Gielen, ScD, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy, and colleagues Denise Twum and Andrea Gielen, found that only 4 percent of the articles mentioned any harm or potential harm arising from the DUI events.
Smith said: "While the celebrity DUI stories raised awareness of the issue of drinking and driving among young people, an opportunity to educate this audience on solutions to prevent DUI was missed."
It was further revealed that most stories concentrated on arrest, sentencing and going to or release from jail whilst less than 50 percent covered the legal aspects of the DUI event.
Experts observed that there was very little thought given to any DUI-related policy or possible societal intervention, while consequences of the DUI mainly referred to legal repercussions or professional setbacks.
Even quotes leaned more towards the justice process, such as those from police, district attorney, judge, while there were no words from public health stakeholders or DUI advocacy groups, the study claims.
Gielen said: "This is really a missed opportunity."
She continued: "Unfortunately, when media cover paltry legal consequences for the celebrities alongside routine use of their glamorous photos, we are likely doing a disservice to young people.
"We need to be getting the message to young people that drinking and driving is a serious issue with substantial legal and life-threatening consequences."
The results of the study are to be published in the May 2009 issue of Alcohol and Alcoholism.