Truth Initiative, “America’s largest nonprofit public health organization committed to making tobacco use a thing of the past,” recently published a study cataloging the increased instances of characters smoking in television series.
The study, While You Were Streaming: Tobacco Use Sees a Renormalization in On-Demand Digital Content, Diluting Progress in Broadcast & Theaters, found that Netflix easily led the way in terms of character tobacco use thanks to series like Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards.
However, Stranger Things had the most tobacco depictions – “Researchers found that 100% of Stranger Things episodes coded included tobacco” – which is concerning for Truth Initiative since it is a series aimed at a younger audience.
Following the release of the study, Netflix promised to scale back on the depictions of cigarette and e-cigarette smoking going forward and will tinker their ratings system to reflect tobacco usage.
“Netflix strongly supports artistic expression. We also recognize that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement (via Variety). “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.”
Netflix continued, “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.”