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Netflix quits smoking because it’s not big and it’s not clever

When you had Hollywood heartthrobs likes of James Dean making it look like the coolest thing on Earth, it’s little wonder everyone smoked back in the olden days.

Now the cancer sticks have been thoroughly outed for the vessels of death they truly are, it’s far less common to see the stars and starlets of film and TV spark one up.

However, just recently, Netflix came under fire for the uptick in depictions of people smoking cigarettes, or vaping in their original shows. Stranger Things for example, had 262 depictions of smoking in season two, up from 161 in the first season, according to anti-smoking campaigners Truth Initiative.

Other originals, like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Orange Is The New Black also featured dramatic increases in smoking instances as the seasons went on, the group claimed.

In response, Netflix has promised to ban depictions of smoking and e-cig use on all TV shows rated TV-14 or lower, and all films rated PG-13 and below. The company streaming giant also promised to lessen the number of depictions in adult-themed content “unless it’s essential to the creative vision of the artist or because it’s character-defining (historically or culturally important),” the company told Variety.

A spokesperson added: “Netflix strongly supports artistic expression. We also recognise that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people.”

Related: Best Netflix alternatives

When smoking is a feature of the show or movie, Netflix will make it clear in the reviews section of the listing.

The campaign group didn’t single out Netflix completely, but did say the streaming firm had tripled the number of depictions in shows most popular with young people aged 15-24 compared with the previous year’s seasons. It says 28 million people were exposed to tobacco through television and streaming, just through the most popular shows.

The group wrote:  “That exposure is a significant public health concern because viewing tobacco use in on-screen entertainment media is a critical factor associated with young people starting to smoke. The U.S. surgeon general found that those with higher levels of exposure to tobacco use in movies are twice as likely to smoke compared with those with less exposure.”

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