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Smoke Out At Netflix

Smoke Out At Netflix

You’ve gotta love this.

In its breathless hurry to appease anti-smoking zealots, Netflix proudly announced that it will trim the depictions of tobacco use from its productions. 

OK, Netflix. Now do violence. Drugs. Unhealthy eating. They kill too, you know.

An outfit called the Truth Initiative counts incidences of tobacco use in film and TV and uses the data to pressure the entertainment industry to eradicate smoking from screens large and small.

Variety reports that, according to Truth Initiative, Season 2 of Stranger Things “had a 44% increase in smoking depictions from the freshman run, climbing from 182 in season 1 to 262 in the second season. ‘Stranger Things’ season 1 had the highest incidence of tobacco depictions among the shows in Truth Initiative’s inaugural study on the topic last year.

“Other Netflix shows popular among viewers aged 15-24 also had much higher rates in their most recent seasons, the report found, including ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ season 4 (292 tobacco depictions, up from nine), ‘Orange Is the New Black’ season 6 (233 tobacco depictions, up from 45) and ‘House of Cards’ season 6 (54 tobacco depictions, up from 41)”

“House of Cards”?

Sure, that political series featured lots of smokers. But it also had murders, lots of them. Including a reporter who was tossed in front of a moving train. 

But it’s the tobacco use these scolds are worried about? Spare me.

Look, “Stranger Things” is set in the 1980s. I’m old enough to remember that decade. Thirty years ago there was smoking on planes, in restaurants, supermarkets and workplaces. Shoot, when I started at The Virginian-Pilot in 1984, I needed a headlamp to find my desk through the blue fog of smoke in the newsroom.

And it’s worth remembering that until 1991, the legal age to buy cigarettes in Virginia was 16.

So showing teens - and everyone else - smoking in the 1980s is simply an accurate portrayal of the time.

Seems strange that Netflix is knuckling under to this one particular advocacy group, simply because tobacco use kills. You know what else kills? Obesity. Is there also a movement to get overweight people off the screen, lest kids decide that being huge is healthy?

Several years ago - during the Obama administration - the Surgeon General recommended an R rating for any film showing tobacco use.

Think about it. If the country’s loony top doc had gotten his way, Doris Day and Rock Hudson movies would carry an R rating. So would “I Love Lucy.” And every single Bogart film.

It’s interesting that the entertainment industry seems willing to banish smoking from its screens. But raw, gratuitous violence? Casual sex? Recreational drug use? Not a chance.

Oh, and before anyone accuses me of being pro-tobacco, I’m not. I was raised by a chain-smoking mother who died of lung cancer in 1998. I know first-hand the horrors of smoking.

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