Netflix to include smoking warnings in its rating system, future original content to be smoke-free

Netflix has taken steps to make their future content smoke-free - with exceptions.
Netflix has taken steps to make their future content smoke-free - with exceptions. Photo credit: AAP

Netflix plans to stub out the smoking scenes in their upcoming original content, the new initiative announced just days after a report pointed a finger at Netflix's propensity for on-screen nicotine.

Anti-tobacco group Truth Initiative released a new report on July 2, aiming to hold the streaming giant accountable for the content it exposes to young viewers. The study found "that Netflix programs depict more smoking imagery than broadcast shows". 

Fan favourites Orange Is the New Black and Strangers Things were highlighted as prime examples of Netflix content featuring high amounts of smoking imagery.

"Results suggest that approximately 28 million young people were exposed to tobacco through television and streaming programs in these most popular shows alone," says the report. 

"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."

Netflix officials have agreed that portraying smoking on-screen can glamourise the "harmful" habit and "adversely influence young people". 

The new initiative means that all future commissioned content with ratings of TV-14 or below for series, or PG-13 or below for films, will prohibit the portrayal of smoking - unless it relates to "historical or factual accuracy", Netflix said in a statement to Variety.

Original content for older demographics will also be smoke-free - with two exceptions. 

The first exception is unless smoking is integral to the "creative vision" of the filmmaker.

The second exception is unless smoking is "character-defining (historically or culturally important)" - meaning the Peaky Blinders and Don Draper's of the future can continue to clutch their cigarettes in peace.

Netflix's cigarette crackdown will see smoking listed alongside sex and violence in their online rating system - "so members can make informed choices about what they watch."

Netflix sources say the crackdown on smoking is unrelated to the report and has been in the works for some time, The Telegraph reports.