According to a newly released report, Netflix beats all other networks when it comes to depicting on-screen tobacco use. The Truth Initiative, a nonprofit organization with a focus on “inspiring tobacco-free lives” released the report earlier this month.
This is the second year in a row Netflix has been at the top of the list, which analyzes shows popular with viewers between the ages of 15 and 24. Reviewers counted 866 instances of tobacco use on the streaming service, which was an increase from 299 instances in the prior year.
Netflix wasn’t the only network showing more onscreen smoking. Traditional broadcast and cable programs also showed an increase in tobacco use from the prior year’s content, as well, marking a change in previous trends of limiting or excluding smoking on the small screen.
Tobacco on TV
The rules surrounding tobacco products on television have been tightening since 1969, when the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act was signed. The act was in response to growing concerns surrounding the health effects of tobacco use. In addition to requiring warning labels be added to cigarettes, it prohibited the advertisement of certain tobacco products on the radio and television.
Why it Matters
When children and teens watch shows on streaming services like Netflix, where “
However, not all kids will react the same way to onscreen smoking. Dr. Sherrie Campbell, a licensed counselor, psychologist, and marriage and family therapist, explains to Parentology different kids will have varied takeaways when it comes to cigarette and tobacco use. “If you’re a rebellious teen the more you’re told not to do something the more you’ll want to try it,” she says. Adding that kids who see smoking as cool will engage, and kids who see it as gross, or uncool, most likely won’t.
In a statement to Variety, Netflix said moving forward all new content aimed at anyone under the age of 14 will exclude tobacco use, except when it comes to “reasons of historical or factual accuracy.” Any content they create geared towards anyone over the age of 14 won’t show tobacco use “unless it’s essential to the creative vision of the artist or because it’s character-defining (historically or culturally important.”
What Parents Can Do
Later this year Netflix will incorporate tobacco use into their rating system, giving parents better control over their children’s exposure to images of smoking.
In the meantime, when talking to your teen about smoking, Campbell suggests focusing on what she calls the gross factor: highlighting how tobacco use can make your teen smell, give them bad breath and seem unclean or dirty. Campbell explains, “Teens are much more concerned with those things than health.”