Study: Netflix shows feature more smoking than other TV networks

Posted at 12:07 AM, Mar 26, 2018


It’s safe to say there is enough information nowadays for everyone to know the detrimental effects of smoking. Yet, as of 2016, it was estimated that around 37.8 million adults in the U.S. still smoked cigarettes. According to, 90 percent of smokers began the habit before they were 19 and about 30 percent of teen smokers will continue smoking and die early from a smoking-related disease.

Now, a new report is showing just how much teens are being exposed to smoking just in the streaming and on-demand entertainment they watch, which continues increasing in popularity.

Melbourne May Become A Smoke-Free City
Getty Images | Scott Barbour

The report, written by the nonprofit Truth Initiative, titled, “While You Were Streaming: Tobacco Use Sees a Renormalization in On-Demand Digital Content, Diluting Progress in Broadcast & Theaters,” found that 79 percent of the shows most popular with people ages 15 to 24 prominently show characters smoking.

This number is higher than in broadcast and cable programming, as well as in movies, which have seen a decrease after the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that exposure to smoking on screens leads young people to smoke.

The video below breaks down some of the Truth Initiative’s findings.

Netflix And Smoke?

In the study, researchers compared seven Netflix shows and seven shows from broadcast or cable networks, with Netflix having 319 tobacco incidents compared to the other shows’ 139 incidents. The worst offender? Netflix’s popular “Stranger Things“, which was found to have more than 180 tobacco incidents in the 2016 season. In comparison, the cable show with the highest amount was “The Walking Dead,” with 94.

Obviously, one of these shows stars children and the other does not, perhaps making the findings about “Stranger Things” even more alarming.




“There has been a revolution in television that now encompasses a complex universe including Hulu, Netflix and an emerging world of on-demand platforms,” Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative said in the study. “And while everybody was watching, but no one was paying attention, we’ve experienced a pervasive re-emergence of smoking imagery that is glamorizing and renormalizing a deadly habit to millions of impressionable young people. It has to stop.”

You can read the full results online and check out the chart below, which displays the shows used in the report and shows how many smoking incidents were found. You might be shocked to see a family show like Netflix’s “Fuller House” relatively high on the list, with 22 incidents of smoking featured.


Truth Initiative


Along with smoking, vaping also continues to be a concern when it comes to teenagers, with some schools even warning parents they’re seeing a growing number of discreet e-cigarettes that look like USB drives found on middle and high school campuses.

According to data from a 2017 survey by Monitoring the Future, about 13 percent of eighth graders, 24 percent of tenth graders and nearly 28 percent of twelfth graders at U.S. schools reported using a vaping device.

E-Cigarette/Electronic Cigarette/E-Cigs/E-Liquid/Vaping/Cloud Chasing
Flickr | Vaping360

If you’re worried about your kids smoking cigarettes or using a vaping device, there are things you can do to help them avoid the habit altogether—or to help them quit if they’ve already started.

The American Lung Association recommends giving children and teens a clear, consistent message about the risks of smoking. In other words, tell them honestly and directly that you do not want them smoking. It may sound obvious, but it’s also important to not smoke around your children or allow other people to smoke around them.




If you do catch your teen smoking, ask them why they started. It may be that they’re looking for acceptance by a peer group or want your attention. Also, the U.S. Library of Medicine recommends telling your child about the risks associated with smoking. They my not be thinking of long-term issues like cancer, so informing them of these risks is a good idea.

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