With the arrival of Stranger Things 3, Netflix has responded to a new report from anti-smoking group Truth Initiative that has criticized the use of cigarettes and smoking in the streaming giant's original content. Chief among the worst offenders was Stranger Things, in which David Harbour's Jim Hopper smokes at least half of the time in which he appears on screen. In a statement shared with Variety, Netflix has promised to cut down on how much smoking appears in some of its originals.
All new shows green-lit by Netflix with ratings of TV-14 or below, or movies PG-13 or below, will no longer feature smoking or the use of e-cigarette devices. However, they will make exceptions for "reasons of historical or factual accuracy." Anything with a higher rating, i.e. TV-MA or R, will not show smoking "unless it’s essential to the creative vision of the artist or because it’s character-defining (historically or culturally important)."
"Netflix strongly supports artistic expression," a spokesman for Netflix confirmed. "We also recognize that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people."
Depictions of the use of tobacco reportedly increased by up to four times last year, and Stranger Things was cited as being particularly bad. In Truth Initiative's study last year, the first season of the show had the highest amount of tobacco use among the content they analyzed.
"Content has become the new tobacco commercial," Truth Initiative's CEO Robin Koval said in a statement. "We’re seeing a pervasive reemergence of smoking imagery across screens that is glamorizing and re-normalizing a deadly addiction and putting young people squarely in the crosshairs of the tobacco industry."
In the study, it was concluded that "approximately 28 million young people were exposed to tobacco through television and streaming programs in these most popular shows alone."