Washington (March 31, 2022) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today sent a letter to Netflix, urging the company to take steps to decrease young people’s exposure to tobacco, nicotine, and vaping imagery in video content. According to a recent report by the Truth Initiative, Netflix has been the top offender for the last four years with respect to the prevalence of this imagery in both new releases and popular shows among 15 to 24 year-olds.
In April 2019, Senators Edward J. Markey, Chris Van Hollen and Richard Blumenthal sent letters to major online streaming companies, inquiring about their role in promoting youth tobacco use and urging the companies to prevent youth smoking initiation. Netflix responded to the Senators stating that it was “committed to reducing portrayals of tobacco use in our content” and pledged that “all newly commissioned projects with ratings of TV-14, PG-13 or below will be tobacco-free, unless it is for the limited purpose of historical or factual accuracy, or to convey an anti-smoking message.” However, research shows Netflix continues to produce the highest volume of series and movies that include tobacco imagery compared to other streaming platforms.
“Netflix’s apparent failure to stop the proliferation of this content poses serious health risks to young viewers. Young people who are exposed to tobacco imagery on streaming platforms are three times more likely to begin to use vaping products,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
“This research builds on decades of evidence supporting the proposition that tobacco use in the media can increase youth tobacco use,” continued the lawmakers. “As young people continue to view Netflix’ programming in large numbers, your company has an obligation to ensure that its programming does not pose a health risk to these viewers.”
A copy of the letter to Netflix can be found HERE.
In June 2018, Senator Markey and several Senate colleagues called on the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to take action to reduce youth exposure to smoking imagery, including e-cigarette depictions, in youth-rated movies and ensure responsible and consistent practices in rating youth movies with tobacco imagery.