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Netflix Will Reduce Smoking Depictions After Stranger Things Criticism

Netflix has announced that it’s cutting back depictions of smoking in new programs, Variety and CNN report. The streaming giant will no longer feature cigarettes or e-cigarettes in projects they commission with ratings of TV-14 or below for TV series, or PG-13 or below for films, except for “reasons of historical or factual accuracy.” The organization also notes that future projects will not depict smoking or e-cigarette use “unless it’s essential to the creative vision of the artist or because it’s character-defining (historically or culturally important).”

The decision comes in response to a new report from anti-tobacco advocacy group Truth Initiative, who found that hit Netflix shows like Stranger Things contain widespread tobacco use. According to the report, the show, which just returned with its third season on Thursday, contained 262 tobacco depictions in Season 2, up from 182 depictions in its first season.

“Netflix strongly supports artistic expression,” the company shared in a statement with Variety. “We also recognize that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people.”

Stranger Things wasn’t alone in its plethoric depictions of tobacco use. According to the report, other Netflix series like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Fuller House each contained more tobacco depictions in their second seasons than their first. Between 2015 and 2017, the streaming platform also depicted much more tobacco use than in broadcast and cable shows.

“Content has become the new tobacco commercial,” Truth Initiative CEO/president Robin Koval told Variety. “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.”