Washington, D.C. — The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent letters to leading U.S. streaming services, encouraging the industry to adopt business practices that protect young viewers from tobacco imagery in video content. Letters were sent to Amazon.com, Apple, AT&T, CBS Corporation, Comcast Corporation, Discovery, The Walt Disney Company, Google, Netflix, Sony, Lionsgate, Viacom, and Walmart.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, tobacco imagery is linked to the “initiation of smoking among young people.” Recent reports by the Truth Initiative and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that on-demand content contained more tobacco imagery than traditional content or broadcast shows, and more than half of PG-13 films released between 2002 and 2017 showed tobacco use.
“Given the recent significant rise in tobacco use by young people, particularly the use of e-cigarettes, preventing initiation and use of tobacco products is of critical importance to us and the public health community, and we sincerely hope it will be addressed by the streaming industry,” read the letters signed by 43 state and territory attorneys general.
Recommendations provided by the attorneys general include eliminating or excluding tobacco imagery in streamed content for young viewers, “recommending” or designating only tobacco-free content for youth and family audiences, improving parental controls, and mitigating the negative influence of imagery.
The letters are the latest action taken by state attorneys general to curb the use of tobacco and its marketing to youth through popular media. The 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which settled litigation brought against tobacco manufacturers by 46 states and six other U.S. jurisdictions, prohibits those manufacturers from targeting youth through advertising and promotions.
The letters conclude, “Video streaming companies have an opportunity to succeed in entertaining young people, while protecting them from the dangers of tobacco use. We hope this letter is the first communication in an on-going discussion regarding the critical role streaming companies can play in the fight against the renormalization and glamorization of tobacco use.”
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