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Netflix to cut back on smoking scenes in its original programmes

Stranger Things star Cary Elwes’ character smokes on screen, a practice Netflix has vowed to cut back on (Netflix/PA)
Stranger Things star Cary Elwes’ character smokes on screen, a practice Netflix has vowed to cut back on (Netflix/PA)

Netflix has vowed to cut back on depictions of cigarette use in its original programmes after a study found the streaming service contributed to a rise in on-screen smoking.

A report said Netflix shows Stranger Things and Orange Is The New Black were among the worst offenders for showing characters lighting up.

In response to the study, from US-based anti-smoking group Truth Initiative, Netflix promised to exclude smoking in original shows aimed at young people, except for “reasons of historical or factual accuracy”.

Stranger Things
Stranger Things star David Harbour is seen smoking during a scene, a practice Netflix has vowed to cut down on (Netflix/PA)

It also said all of its new programmes, regardless of their content ratings, will not depict smoking “unless it’s essential to the creative vision of the artist or because it’s character-defining (historically or culturally important)”.

Netflix said: “Netflix strongly supports artistic expression. We also recognise that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people.”

The Truth Initiative study analysed TV shows for instances of smoking and found “smoking on the small screen has gone from common to nearly unavoidable”.

It added: “While smoking in TV programmes has not been studied as extensively as tobacco imagery in movies, it is reasonable to conclude a similar harmful impact is possible.”

Netflix’s Stranger Things season one had 182 instances of smoking, the study said, while its second season had 262.

House Of Cards saw a leap from 41 to 54 from one season to the next, while prison drama Orange Is The New Black had 45 tobacco depictions in its 2015/16 season rising to 233 in its 2016/17 season, according to the study.

However, the Truth Initiative found Netflix was not the only streaming service to show smoking.

Amazon Prime Video’s award-winning comedy The Marvelous Mrs Maisel portrays characters smoking throughout its two seasons while Hulu’s Gap Year features a character who frequently uses cigarettes.

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