A survey by the anti-tobacco use group Truth Initiative released Tuesday found “Stranger Things” to be one of television’s worst offenders when it comes to depicting smoking on-screen. Titled “While You Were Streaming: Smoking On Demand,” the report noted that all nine episodes in the second season of “Stranger Things,” which came out in 2017, depicted some form of tobacco use.
The trend carried over to other Netflix series as well, including “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Orange Is the New Black.” The streaming platform “continued to display much more tobacco than broadcast or cable” in 2017, and more than it had in previous years too, researchers said.
“Streaming content providers should heed the lessons learned from the motion picture industry, which has responded to the surgeon general’s conclusion that exposure to smoking on screens causes young people to smoke,” they added.
By Friday, Netflix officials responded to the Truth Initiative report, saying they recognize that smoking “is harmful” and “when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people.”
“Going forward, all new projects that we commission with ratings of TV-14 or below for series or PG-13 or below for films, will be smoking and e-cigarette free — except for reasons of historical or factual accuracy,” Netflix said in a statement issued to Entertainment Weekly and Variety. “For new projects with higher ratings, there’ll be no smoking or e-cigarettes unless it’s essential to the creative vision of the artist or because it’s character-defining (historically or culturally important).”
“In addition, starting later this year, smoking information will be included as part of our ratings on the Netflix service so our members can make informed choices about what they watch,” the statement continued.
Cigarettes aside, the third season of “Stranger Things” debuted July 4 to great fanfare. USA Today praised the latest episodes as “exuberant and excellent, nearly surpassing the creative heights of the first season,” while The Guardian said the series is “still frightening as hell, but far more fun” that it had been previously.