Stub it out – Netflix vows to reduce smoking scenes

A new study linked on-screen smoking with a rise in off-screen smoking.

Netflix has vowed to reduce the number of instances where actors are seen using tobacco in its original programming, after a new study suggested that it had sparked a rise in wider on-screen smoking.

US anti-smoking group Truth Initiative claimed that tobacco imagery was on the up – with depictions becoming more common on streaming platforms than television channels.

Now, Netflix has vowed to exclude smoking in shows aimed at young people, excluding “reasons of historical or factual accuracy.”

Hit sci-fi show Stranger Things includes extensive scenes where police chief Jim Hopper is seen smoking – with the report discovering 182 instances of smoking in its first season and 262 in the second. Meanwhile, the prison drama Orange Is The New Black featured 45 depictions of tobacco use in its 2015-16 season and 233 in the following season.

The campaign group said: “While smoking in TV programmes has not been studied as extensively as tobacco imagery in movies, it is reasonable to conclude a similar harmful impact is possible.

“The popularity of streaming combined with the pervasive rise of smoking in episodic content points to an emerging threat to a new generation.”

Netflix said in response that it “strongly supports artistic expression. We also recognise that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people.”

Announcing plans for a new advisory system, Netflix added: “Starting later this year, smoking information will be included as part of our ratings on the Netflix service so our members can make informed choices about what they watch.”

The issue isn’t exclusive to Netflix either – with Amazon Prime Video’s The Marvelous Mrs Maisel portraying characters who smoke throughout the show’s two seasons.

Robin Koval, the CEO of Truth Initiative, added: “Content has become the new tobacco commercial. We’re seeing a pervasive reemergence of smoking imagery across screens that is glamorising and re-normalising a deadly addiction and putting young people squarely in the crosshairs of the tobacco industry.”