If you’re a “Netflix and chill” regular, you’re going to see some radical changes in your favourite shows like Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black. Netflix has been criticised in a new report for an increase in the number of “tobacco instances” in their shows. The report comes from a US-based not-for-profit organisation The Truth Initiative. Who are dedicated to eliminating tobacco use in the United States (so we’re already fans).
So what’s the problem with smoking on screen?
The main concern is the number of young children who watch these shows. And the worry that their favourite characters’ smoking habits will have an influence on them. The BMJ have published research to prove that exposure to tobacco imagery in films increases smoking uptake in adolescents. Although tobacco advertising and sponsorship has long been prohibited in the UK, content providers like Netflix fall outside of the regulations and instead are subject to Ofcom’s guidelines.
The Truth Initiative’s report analysed 13 popular shows in the US and the results were shocking! Smoking on screen has increased by a whopping 176% in the last year. But Netflix has been singled for criticism because their tobacco imagery actually trebled! Stranger Things was the worst offender, with tobacco products seen being used in every episode of the first two seasons.
This isn’t the first time Netflix have been given a rap on the knuckles for this. But this is the first time they have promised to do something about it.
What are Netflix doing about all the smoke?
Netflix has announced that it will cut back having smoking in its future shows. There will be no cigarette use in any of their shows which have an aged 14 or younger rating. They will also reduce on-screen smoking across the board no matter the age rating. But with the caveat “unless it’s essential to the creative vision of the artist or because it’s character-defining (historically or culturally important)”.
We will wait to see what impact this change of policy will have. On the shows themselves or on their young and impressionable audiences. We’d love to see more on-screen characters using e-cigarettes. But with rising anti-vaping feelings in the US right now, it’s not looking likely from here across the Atlantic!