Netflix has vowed to cut down the amount of scenes in its original shows that depict smoking.
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It comes after new research by Truth Initiative showed that Stranger Things, one of the streaming platform’s hit TV series, was up there with the worst offenders. According to the study, season 2 of the show had a 44% increase in smoking depictions from the first series, climbing from 182 instances in season 1 to 262 in season 2.
The streaming giant has responded to the study by pledging to exclude smoking and e-cigarette use, except for “reasons of historical or factual accuracy”, in all new shows it commissions with ratings of TV-14 or below (and all films rated PG-13 or below).
A statement from the platform reads: “Netflix strongly supports artistic expression. We also recognise that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people. Going forward, all new projects that we commission with ratings of TV-14 or below for series or PG-13 or below for films, will be smoking and e-cigarette free — except for reasons of historical or factual accuracy.
“For new projects with higher ratings, there’ll be no smoking or e-cigarettes unless it’s essential to the creative vision of the artist or because it’s character-defining (historically or culturally important). In addition, 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 report also found that other Netflix shows that are popular among viewers aged 15-24 also had much higher rates in their most recent seasons. These included: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 4 (292 tobacco depictions, up from nine), Orange Is the New Black season 6 (233 tobacco depictions, up from 45) and House of Cards season 6 (54 tobacco depictions, up from 41).
“Content has become the new tobacco commercial,” added Robin Koval, CEO/president of Truth Initiative. “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.”