Netflix Continued To Show Smoking In TV Shows Despite Its 2019 Pledge

According to a report by anti-smoking nonprofit Truth Initiative, Netflix managed to include hundreds of tobacco depictions in The Queen’s Gambit, The Umbrella Academy, as well as other currently popular shows in 2020, despite promising in 2019 to eliminate portrayals of smoking in new and original programming targeted at young audiences.

Key Facts To Consider

  • Researchers discovered that Netflix shows featured more tobacco portrayals than those on other platforms popular with younger audiences, such as Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar, HBO, or Hulu.
  • According to the report, The Queen’s Gambit, which was streamed by 62 million homes in 2020, had 220 tobacco images and The Umbrella Academy had 205, with both shows incorporating tobacco in every episode.
  • Although Netflix’s Stranger Things, which featured 721 tobacco portrayals in 2019, did not announce a new season in 2020, and thus did not contribute to Netflix’s high overall rate of tobacco portrayals, 30.1 percent of viewers aged 15-24 polled by Truth Initiative said they binge-watched previous seasons of the show in 2020, demonstrating that older media can also make a significant contribution to younger audiences’ exposure to smoking representations.
  • 60 percent of the 15 most popular streaming series among audiences aged 15-24 in 2020 had tobacco images, with 100 representations in Family Guy, 95 in The Simpsons, 54 in Big Mouth, and 54 in On My Block, without counting data referring to material from before 2020.
  • According to the British Medical Journal, one in every five youngsters aged 13 to 15 is a habitual smoker, with up to 100,000 more youngsters turning regular smokers every day. And according to a study by the US Surgeon General, young people who are exposed to the most smoking imagery in movies are nearly twice as likely to start smoking as young people who are exposed to the least smoking imagery.
  • According to the University of California San Francisco’s Smokefree Media study, an updated R-rating that decreased young audiences’ in-theater exposure from an annual mean of 275 tobacco pictures to 10 or less would reduce teenage smoking rates by 18%.
  • As per the Truth Initiative, streaming media viewing, which counts for 28% of all TV viewing as of November 2021, exposed around 27 million young people to smoking and vaping imagery in 2020.

Smokiest Youth-rated Film

In the 2005 film The Longest Yard, 187 cigarettes are smoked, according to Smokefree Media’s Onscreen Tobacco Database, making it the smokiest youth-rated film.

Disney’s policy banning onscreen smoking was extended to Lucasfilm, Marvel, and Pixar films in 2015. In the 2021 film Cruella, Emma Stone was forced to portray Cruella de Vil without the character’s signature blue cigarette holder.