A new report says there has been a dramatic increase in the depiction of people smoking on shows aimed at young people. Truth Initiative, a U.S. non-profit dedicated to “making tobacco a thing of the past,” found that 92 per cent of the shows most popular with people aged 15 to 24 depicted smoking prominently.
It singled out Netflix because it is the most commonly watched streaming service among this age group and said the network had tripled the number of tobacco incidents on its programming in one year. But it also called out Amazon and Hulu programs as well as broadcast and cable outlets.
Young people are influenced, say health advocates
“The U.S. Surgeon General a couple of years ago in a report found that youth who are more exposed to smoking in movies are twice as likely to begin smoking,” said Rob Cunningham, an analyst with the Candian Cancer Society. “The World Health Organization has similarly looked at the global evidence and has come to a similar conclusion about the importance of taking action in this area.”
Netflix promises voluntary measures
Since the report came out, Netflix said it will voluntarily cut back on how often smoking is depicted on the shows that it produces. Cunningham says he hopes other companies follow suit.
In Canada, it is already illegal for tobacco companies to pay to have their products placed in movies. Cunningham would also like to see provinces pass regulations so that movies which depict smoking be given a special age rating so that young people would need to be accompanied by an adult to see them. This, he says, would give incentive to producers to leave tobacco consumption scenes out.
Make subsidies conditional, says analyst
In addition, Cunningham notes that many production companies get subsidies from governments. He says that governments should make such agreements conditional on there not being any scenes depicting smoking. He adds that all measures should apply to e-cigarettes which are becoming increasingly popular among the young.
Hear why Rob Cunningham is against depictions of smoking in popular programs.Listen
See details of Canada’s various tobacco control laws.