Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” documentary series on Formula One (F1) racing is rife with tobacco imagery. The Netflix series, which has 5 seasons, is a collaboration between Netflix and F1 that details the 2018-2022 F1 Racing World Championships. A recent report from tobacco industry watchdog Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP) shows that in Season 4 alone, there were 149 minutes of content with tobacco imagery that resulted in an estimated 1.1 billion minutes of tobacco imagery streamed globally.
The popularity of the sport has grown rapidly in recent years and is sponsored by hundreds of millions of dollars in funding from tobacco companies including Philip Morris International (since 1997) and British American Tobacco (since 2019). STOP’s report shows that the Netflix show “Drive to Survive” is helping to expand the F1 audience to include younger viewers. They compared the audiences for F1 programming to the audience for Drive to Survive and found that a substantially larger proportion of Drive to Survive viewers were under 34-years-old (46% vs. 16%) and had children living in their home (49% vs. 21%). Importantly, seasons of the Drive to Survive series with extensive tobacco depictions were developed after Netflix’s 2019 pledge to remove tobacco imagery in content that is rated TV-14 and to reduce tobacco imagery in their content overall. While the series is rated TV-MA (appropriate for viewers 17 and older), the fact that about half of the series audience is under 34 and has children living in their homes suggests a high likelihood of youth exposure to content from the series.
Truth Initiative’s recent news article provides a detailed look at the tobacco imagery in Netflix’s Drive to Survive with recommendations for policies that will protect young people from tobacco imagery, such as making sure that media companies do not receive tobacco industry funding, ensuring that distributors develop transparent anti-tobacco policies, and ensuring productions with tobacco imagery do not receive government subsidies, among others.