As Netflix exploits teen suicide, threatens to boycott Georgia for protecting unborn children, and denounces the term "chick flick" as offensive, the streaming platform has now suddenly had a "come to Jesus" moment on its depictions of smoking cigarettes.
"Netflix says it will cut back on depictions of smoking in its shows in the wake of a report that called out the streamer for the number of instances in which characters use tobacco in shows like Stranger Things," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
In a statement to CNN, a Netflix spokesperson said that all shows with a TV-14 rating or movies with PG-13 ratings will no longer depict smoking unless the story absolutely needs it.
"Going forward, all new projects that we commission with ratings of TV-14 or below for series or PG-13 or below for films, will be smoking and e-cigarette free — except for reasons of historical or factual accuracy," said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson added that Netflix still supports artistic expression and will be including tobacco warnings in the ratings box. "Netflix strongly supports artistic expression," the statement continued. "We also recognize that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people."
The announcement comes on the heels of a Truth Initiative report released last week that showed Netflix had nearly tripled the number of scenes depicting tobacco use (866) in just one year.
"[Netflix] topped the list with nearly triple the number of tobacco instances (866) compared with the prior year (299)," the study found. "Smoking on the small screen has gone from common to nearly unavoidable, as popular programs like 'Stranger Things,' [Netflix's] 'Orange Is the New Black' and [ABC's] 'Modern Family' increasingly show images of tobacco and portray characters who smoke."
"For both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, episodic programming on Netflix had a greater total number of tobacco depictions than programs aired on broadcast or cable TV, with Stranger Things continuing to show the most tobacco overall," the report continued. "Researchers found that 100 percent of 'Stranger Things' episodes coded included tobacco."
Regardless of the moral questions behind depictions of tobacco on screen, Netflix caving to this one report from Truth Initiative stands in stark contrast to the leadership's treatment toward critics of shows like "13 Reasons Why," which has led to an actual spike in teen suicide rates.
"In the month following the show's debut in March 2017, there was a 28.9% increase in suicide among Americans ages 10-17, said the study, published Monday in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry," reported NPR this past April. "The number of suicides was greater than that seen in any single month over the five-year period researchers examined. Over the rest of the year, there were 195 more youth suicides than expected given historical trends."
In June of last year, as Netflix renewed "13 Reasons Why" for its third season, company CEO Reed Hastings dismissed critics by saying "nobody has to watch it."
"'13 Reasons Why' has been enormously popular and successful. It’s engaging content," Hastings said during the company’s annual shareholder meeting. "It is controversial. But nobody has to watch it."