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Netflix snuffing out depictions of smoking after Stranger Things backlash

By Josh Weiss
Stranger Things 3 Cary Elwes

Netflix is on a path to becoming a "No Smoking" zone after it was put on blast for excessive depictions of tobacco use in Stranger Things. According to a new report from the anti-smoking non-profit Truth Initiative, the nostalgic sci-fi series, "showed the most tobacco overall, with 100 percent of the show’s episodes including tobacco."

Of course, the character who smokes the most in the show is Hawkins' jaded and boozing police chief, Jim Hopper (David Harbour). However, the current third season, set over the summer of 1985, does feature a notable rise in tobacco-using individuals, including Mayor Larry Kline (Cary Elwes) and Soviet scientist Alexei (Alec Utgoff).

“Netflix strongly supports artistic expression,” a company spokesman said in a statement to Variety. “We also recognize that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people.”

David Harbour Stranger Things Netflix

While no stats have been put forth for Season 3 just yet, Truth Initiative did find that smoking was up 44 percent in Season 2 in 2017 when compared to the first season in 2016. Nevertheless, Stranger Things doesn't take all the blame; Unbreakable Kimmy SchmidtOrange Is the New Black, and House of Cards were called out as well.

From now on, any original shows (TV-14 or lower) or films (PG-13 or lower) that the streaming company orders will not contain any onscreen depictions of smoking. The only exceptions are for "reasons of historical or factual accuracy." If any project does feature cigarettes, cigars, or e-cigs, it is to be made clear in the ratings information.

“Content has become the new tobacco commercial,” added Robin Koval, CEO/president of Truth Initiative. “We’re seeing a pervasive reemergence of smoking imagery across screens that is glamorizing and re-normalizing a deadly addiction and putting young people squarely in the crosshairs of the tobacco industry.”

The non-profit also called out other genre shows like The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, The Big Bang Theory, and even ABC's Once Upon a Time.

Season 3 of Stranger Things is now streaming on Netflix.