August 8, 2019

43 state Attorneys General target kid-rated smoking

On August 6, forty-three state and territorial Attorneys General wrote America's leading media companies asking them to "eliminate or exclude tobacco imagery in all future original streamed content for young viewers."

The AGs cited the US Surgeon General's 2014 conclusion that on-screen smoking recruits young people to smoke and Truth Initiative's 2018 discovery of high tobacco content in popular streaming shows. Their letter also asked media companies with on-demand services to: 

  • Keep all promos, such as trailers and image galleries, tobacco-free
  • Stop "recommending" smoking titles to younger viewers
  • Aim parental controls at tobacco content, regardless of rating
  • Stream strong anti-smoking/vaping spots before all titles with tobacco

These policies parallel the measures that media shareholders and U.S. Senators urged on streaming companies earlier in 2019, and the remedies that leading medical and public health organizations have long advocated for the film industry.

State Attorney Generals are continuing to challenge tobacco promotion to children and adolescents as part of their ongoing enforcement of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with U.S. tobacco companies. State AGs have repeatedly — and with growing explicitness — pressed media companies to reduce kids' exposure to onscreen smoking.

The AGs' letter comes after evidence emerged that tobacco content was migrating from PG-13 feature films to streaming media. A growing list of traditional media companies have cable-based on-demand services or plan to add Internet-based streaming channels in 2019 and 2020.

Earlier in 2019, Netflix said that it would keep tobacco out of its future youth-rated films and shows. On July 4, it released a new season of Stranger Things (TV-14) with hundreds of tobacco incidents and close-ups of Camel and Marlboro brands.

We estimate that Stranger Things, Season 3, delivered more than three billion new tobacco impressions to Netflix viewers of all ages in its first four days.

The Attorneys General sent their latest letter to Amazon, Apple, CBS, Discovery, Google (YouTube), Lionsgate and Walmart in addition to MPAA members AT&T (WarnerMedia), Comcast (Universal), Disney, Netflix, Sony and Viacom (Paramount).

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What you can do NOW

Thank your Attorney General for signing this letter.

Ask your media companies to fulfill the AGs' requests.

Download the full text of the AGs' letter.

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