Protect Teen Health by Limiting Tobacco Imagery in Streaming Video


Last week, Attorney General Racine and a coalition of 43 states called on streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon to limit tobacco use in their video content. Due to the growing use of tobacco products among teens, the coalition aims to open a dialogue with leading streaming companies to protect the health of their many young viewers. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes rose from 2.1 million in 2017 to 3.6 million in 2018.

In a letter, the Attorneys General provide policy guidelines to the streaming industry to proactively combat the negative effects of tobacco imagery in their programming. Specifically, they ask the streaming industry to: 

  • Eliminate or exclude tobacco imagery in all future original streamed content and promotional material aimed at young viewers. Content with tobacco imagery should be rated R or TV-MA.
  • “Recommend” or designate only tobacco-free content for children, adolescents, families, and general audiences.  
  • Improve or offer parental controls that are effective, prominent, and easy-to-use, that allow parents and guardians to restrict access to all content with tobacco imagery.  
  • Use strong anti-smoking and/or anti-vaping public service announcements, as appropriate, before all content with tobacco imagery.

In their letter, the Attorneys General write, “Video streaming companies have an opportunity to succeed in entertaining young people, while protecting them from the dangers of tobacco use.  We hope this letter is the first communication in an on-going discussion regarding the critical role streaming companies can play in the fight against the renormalization and glamorization of tobacco use.”

Read the full letter here.

In 1998, Attorneys General across the nation fought to enter into the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which imposed major restrictions on tobacco company marketing practices and prohibits advertising aimed at youth. This included banning the advertisement of tobacco products on TV shows, movies and other video content. Despite the ban, studies by the public health organization Truth Initiative found a high rate of tobacco content in streamed videos that are popular with young viewers.