The fictional town of Hawkins, where Netflix’s sci-fi hit Stranger Things is set, holds plenty of dangers for teens. Things like empty swimming pools, excessively beteethed monsters, shady government agencies…and, according to anti-smoking group Truth Initiative, cigarettes.
A new report from the organization pins Stranger Things as one of the worst offenders when it comes to the number of depictions of tobacco in shows popular with viewers aged 15 to 24, per Variety. Truth Initiative’s investigation showed that the series, which is set in the ’80s, featured 182 depictions of smoking in its eight-episode first season. In its nine-episode second season, that number nearly doubled, rising to 262 depictions.
Netflix is taking Truth Initiative’s findings seriously. Going forward, it will axe depictions of smoking and vaping from all original shows with ratings of TV-14 or below, and original films rated PG-13 or below, it said in a statement.
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Productions with higher ratings will also not include smoking or vaping “unless it’s essential to the creative vision of the artist or because it’s character-defining (historically or culturally important),” the company said. Additionally, it plans to add notes about smoking to its ratings information, where it currently includes warnings for things like violence and nudity.
“Netflix strongly supports artistic expression,” a Netflix spokesperson told Variety. “We also recognize that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively onscreen can adversely influence young people.”
Stranger Things isn’t the only Netflix series Truth Initiative says has a steadily increasing number of smoking depictions. Some other series have dramatic changes, like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which went from nine depictions in season one to 292 in season four, and Orange Is the New Black, which went from 45 in season one to 233 in season six. The organization also dinged Amazon for its series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Hulu for its Gap Year.
“Content has become the new tobacco commercial,” Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative, 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.”
Research by the Centers for Disease Control shows that smoking of regular cigarettes among middle schoolers and high schoolers has gone down by 4.3% and 15.8%, respectively, since 2011. However, in the same time period, vaping has significantly increased, and now nearly one in five high school students uses ecigarettes.