Netflix has promised to cut down on its smoking habit in the future after being criticized by anti-smoking group Truth Initiative.The streaming giant will avoid depictions of smoking across all of its original shows aimed at younger viewers in particular, with a few exceptions.
The catalyst is a new report from Truth Initiative designed to coincide with the release of season 3 of the hit show Stranger Things. The study analyzed several of the most popular programs among 15-to-24-year-olds and concluded that the amount of tobacco imagery in them has more than tripled in the past year. The worst offender for depictions of smoking (including e-cigarettes) is Netflix, and the stand-out show was season 2 of Stranger Things, with 100% of the the analyzed episodes depicting tobacco use, a 44% increase from the first season. Similarly, other shows targeting the same demographic appeared to have stepped up their smoking content.
Is it a case of product placement? Robin Koval, CEO/president of Truth Initiative, said in a statement that ''Content has become the new tobacco commercial...a pervasive reemergence of smoking imagery across screens that is glamorizing and re-normalizing a deadly addiction and putting young people squarely in the crosshairs of the tobacco industry.''
Netflix does have a habit of having the camera linger over certain brand products in its original content, although the when it comes to smoking it may be a coincidence. The act of smoking, with its smoke, glow and accompanying gestures and mannerisms, does have an aesthetic appeal to many creators, but whether you think it looks cool or not, the end result doesn't seem worth it. NPR cited a 2014 report by the US Surgeon General that concluded "an R-rating for movies with smoking would avert one million tobacco deaths among today's children and adolescents." Truth Initiative believes that the prevalence of smoking depictions on streaming content presents an increased threat and warrants a renewed effort to restrict it.
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In a statement, Netflix told Variety that it will not show smoking or e-cigarette use in future originals with ratings of TV-14 or below, as well as all films rated PG-13 or below, except for "reasons of historical or factual accuracy." The streaming giant would also limit depictions of smoking in projects with higher age ratings, "unless it's essential to the creative vision of the artist or because it's character-defining, or historically or culturally important."
So it seems like going forward, smoking on Netflix won't quite be so gratuitous but won't be left out of situations where it makes an important point in a story. What do you think about Netflix's move? Did you notice how often smoking was shown on the streaming service?