Netflix promises to reduce smoking on screen after complaints about Stranger Things

First of all, I’ve been too busy to watch season three of Stranger Things so please try not to give spoilers in the comments. A friend said she couldn’t help but binge it in a couple of days so I’m avoiding it until I have a block of time. One thing I’ve heard and noticed about Netflix shows is that smoking is portrayed as matter-of-fact and common, even in series set in modern times. I stopped watching Chilling Adventures of Sabrina because one of the aunts was smoking inside during family breakfast and I kept imagining how disgusting that must be. There are so many shows in which I’ve noticed smoking that’s unnecessary and doesn’t seem to add to the plot, particularly a horror movie called The Silence with Kiernan Shipka. The grandmother was sneaking cigarettes and it served absolutely no purpose. That happens so often in Netflix shows, although I’m ok with smoking in shows which are set in the past or in countries where smoking is still common. Apparently a lot of people were complaining about Sheriff Hopper’s smoking in Stranger Things, so Netflix has issued a statement saying that they’re going to evaluate future shows to make sure smoking is necessary, particularly shows aimed at children and teens.

Smoking in Stranger Things has led Netflix to curb cigarette use from future projects.

Anti-smoking group Truth Initiative found there were 262 instances of cigarette smoking in season 2 alone, which is a 44 percent increase from the first season, according to Variety.

“Netflix strongly supports artistic expression,” a spokesperson for the streaming service told Variety. “We also recognize that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people.”

Netflix confirmed to Variety that tobacco use will factor into ratings information beginning later this year, meaning any cigarette or e-cigarette smoking will have to be excluded in order to meet TV-14 rating for television and PG-13 rating for movies. The only exception to that rule is if the tobacco use is central to “reasons of historical or factual accuracy,” the outlet reports.

A spokesperson for Netflix did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Other shows highlighted for tobacco use in the Truth Initiative’s report were ABC’s Modern Family and Amazon’s Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, according to Variety.

[From People]

Netflix has issued this statement but it’s worth noting that this is not a press release that they’re releaing on their press site. Again, I’m ok with people smoking in shows set in the 90s or before because that’s what we used to do. A lot of people will say it’s no big deal but I appreciate that Netflix is doing this, particularly because it can influence kids and teens. Smoking is no longer as acceptable as it used to be and shows and movies do set cultural standards. I wish they would curb some of the drinking on shows too. So many times it’s portrayed as awesome and fun when alcohol can ruin lives, frankly.



photos credit: Netflix press

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

49 Responses to “Netflix promises to reduce smoking on screen after complaints about Stranger Things”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Veronica S says:

    Pfft. I have no idea how people had time to notice the smoking when I was too busy cringing through the season. My family couldn’t even bring ourselves to finish it – we literally just got fed up halfway through episode 6 and shut it off. It’s honestly some of the worst writing I’ve seen in TV in awhile. I don’t know what’s going on with Netflix, but something about their shows just falls apart around season 3.

    • Valiantly Varnished says:


    • Agirlandherdog says:

      My husband and I binged seasons 1 and 2 when they were released. We watch 2 1/2 eps of season 3, and honestly, I’m not all that concerned about finishing it.

      • Veronica S. says:

        You were wiser than we were. We tried to push through to the end despite the warning signs, but it became clear around episode 5 that the Duffer brothers had no idea what they were doing and thought pointless, endless arguing and fighting was equivalent to actual plot and character development. (Spoiler: it’s not.) There were warning signs about the the writing from season one, but I never thought they would blow it up THIS badly when they had such an obvious route for the story leftover from S2.

    • Heather says:

      So with you on this. IMO one of the most over rated shows eva! As for the smoking – the one thing the show has going for it is that they do a great job capturing the 80’s and everyone smoked in the 80’s. I think kids today think cigs are for old people and I don’t see this show making them want to smoke. I can see how vaping would be influential but not smoking cigarettes.

    • Jen says:

      Sean Astin annoyed me so much in season two, we never made it through.

      • Veronica S. says:

        Honestly, I don’t even blame the actors for this one. The writers gave them absolute garbage dialogue and character direction for this season. Hopper was a real low point for me – I don’t know how they managed to turn one of the most beloved characters into a complete jackass. (Also, who thought having a POLICE OFFICER abuse their authority on a tv show in 2019 wasn’t tone deaf as hell??) Even Joyce was frustratingly useless after such a good showing in 1 and 2. Splitting up the kids was a huge mistake, too – they really play best off each other, and the Russian subplot was just completely unnecessary it was obviously done just to give Steve and Dustin something to do. When you actually analyze the episodes individually for events that progress the main plot, rather than dragging it out via meaningless arguments, scenes of violence, or “character” moments, there’s a disturbing amount of wasted time.

        (Not to mention the absolutely BAFFLING waste of introducing the other psychic children in S2 and not bothering to utilize them at all for a big event like taking on the Mind Flayer. Why even waste an ep on them in S2 then??)

    • DiegoInSF says:

      Couldn’t disagree more! This season was fantastic, it was such a fun ride.

      • Becks1 says:

        @diego – I’m with you! We have to watch the finale still but I have really liked it. I think it is better than Season 2.

      • amilou says:

        I’m with you, DiegoInSF — I loved it.

        I thought the final 2 episodes were fanfreakingtastic!

  2. Erinn says:

    I have mixed feelings. I absolutely think it’s something that shouldn’t be glorified – it’s dangerous for your health and those around you.

    But at the same time – I as an adult shouldn’t have to have the shows I want to watch edited because people can’t keep tabs on what their teenagers are up to.

    Sure, cigarettes and alcohol can ruin lives. But how many of the shows on netflix show cheating on spouses, violence, etc. Let’s not pretend that some of the most watched shows on tv feature over the top violence like the walking dead or game of thrones.

    My concern is where is it going to go, and where is it going to stop. Of course these things aren’t good for you – but we shouldn’t be at a place where we have to hide it away as if it’s not happening, either I guess? I think there just needs to be a balance somewhere between hiding and glorifying.

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      Here’s my question to you: what do you think you are losing as a viewer simply because you don’t see a character smoking onscreen?? How does that impact what you get out of the story??

      • Erinn says:

        It depends on the show. If it’s part of the plot, then that could be an issue. There’s multiple episodes of How I Met Your Mother – and I think Friends too – where they’re getting hooked or trying to quit smoking. Which would affect a full episode, or multiple parts of multiple episodes. If it’s only future shows – that’s fine with me, honestly. But I had read a few days ago something about taking out scenes in existing shows, though I’m not sure how true that was at that point. It might have been an idea hoisted around but not decided on.

        I mean – hell I hate smoking. I’d be very happy if nobody in the world did it ever again. It makes me really ill, and triggers migraines. But if they’re depicting specific time periods, or showing it as a character flaw, I don’t think it’s necessarily something that should be removed altogether.

    • Anon33 says:

      People smoked in the 80s. It’s a valid representation of what happened then. People should be able to understand that and not demand that we attempt to alter history when it suits us to do so. The outrage is frankly ridiculous.

      • Mia4s says:

        Historically accurate maybe. But a 44% increase over season 1 and 2? Were those seasons criticized as inaccurate because they were at least 50% too low on the smoking.

        A 44% increase feels deliberate. To the point where I’d wonder if behind the scenes something wasn’t being encouraged. I think they deserve to be taken to task.

        And before people come screaming about alcohol depictions. Hopper’s drinking has not been portrayed as good or even neutral. It’s shown as unhealthy. Not apples and apples at all .

      • Harla says:

        Perhaps the increase in smoking was due to the increased stress placed on the adults during season 2.

      • Ashley says:

        Agreed I think this is altering/sanitizing of history and honestly feel like people should be able to recognize that was normal during that time.

  3. Megan says:

    Smoking was still so prevalent in the 1980s it is historically accurate for the adults to be smoking in Stranger Things, but smoking indoors is so gross I find it really distracting from the story.

  4. Léna says:

    Modern family has smoking on screen? I don’t remember one of the main character being a smoker. Interesting.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I think Jay smokes cigars quite a bit, but I don’t recall him smoking them indoors.

  5. Case says:

    I feel like how much characters smoke should be based on the time period. Excessive smoking set in 2019 would be glaring and strange, but in the 70s and 80s, it was part of the culture. *shrugs*

    Pssst. You should really keep watching Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, though. It’s excellent.

  6. Valiantly Varnished says:

    There was a LOT of smoking in this season. It struck me when most of the main adult characters were sitting at a table each with a cigarette in their hand. That visual was a bit jarring to me. And yes while I agree that smoking was kore acceptable back then I don’t think that is something that necessarily has to be brought to the screen for authenticity’s sake.

  7. Steph says:

    So I get being historically accurate, but Winona smoking in reality bites is one of the reason I found smoking so cool. Even as a (nearly) decade long non-smoker, watching all the smoking made me want a cigarette real bad.

    I settled for ice cream instead. Lol!

    • Jess says:

      I felt the same way, it made me want a cigarette soooooo bad, and I quit over a decade ago, lol. I personally enjoy seeing it represented accurately, a lot of people smoked in the 80’s, and they smoked everywhere all the time, which is exactly why I ended up smoking myself! I’m sure I was long addicted to it before I took my first real puff.

  8. VintageS says:

    This is so ridiculous. I grew up with with two parents as smokers and cigarettes were advertised everywhere. Neither my brother or I ever smoked.

    No advertising now and some kids are still smoking.

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      And yet there are literal studies that show a direct link between underage smoking and what kids see on TV and film. Studies also show that a child raised with a smoker parent or two – is significantly more likely to smoke. So while you and your brother didn’t become smokers you are not the rule. You’re the exception.

      • Anon33 says:

        So everyone who ever witnessed smoking on TV started smoking? You have any facts at all to back that up? Since you’re claiming that this person who didn’t start smoking is the exception to the rule?

      • Valiantly Varnished says:

        @Anon33 I find it obnoxious when people are deliberately obtuse. No where did I state that anyone who ever witnessed smoking on TV started smoking. If you take issue with what I said I cant help you. There is TONS of data on this readily available and at your fingertips – for free. Via Google. If you would like to know the specifics of the data you can find it there. Takes five seconds.

      • Franklymydear... says:

        My parents both smoked and none of their 3 kids do. Literally, in the 80s, ALL of my friends’ parents and my parents’ friends smoked. A LOT. And none of us do as adults. I don’t know one person who smokes.

        The real issue is vaping. If Eleven starts vaping on screen, that’s a deal breaker. I can’t imagine any kid watching Hopper suck on cigarettes, dripping ash all over his bed and his dirty undershirt, and thinking, “Man, smoking is cool!”

    • Phat girl says:

      I remember smoking in the 80’s. It was everywhere and yes, I was very influenced by the movies and television glamorizing the smoking as cool and adult. I mean we had Joe Camel entertaining us since childhood. We collected Marlboro Miles and got free beach towels and camping equipment. My high school had a smoking section for Juniors and seniors so you can bet us underclassmen couldn’t wait to turn 17 so we could smoke too. Say what you will about your family but neither of my parents ever smoked a cigarette and all seven of my brothers and sisters and I smoked ( a few of us still do). My only son however does not smoke. I have spent my life letting him know how embarrassed I am every time I “have” to have a smoke and how much my doctor tells me my life and health would be so much better if I didn’t. I’ve made sure he sees the addiction behind the act and I for one would love to see less of it shown on TV so that the stigma it deserves is attached to it.

    • Molly says:

      Glad your sample size of two proves your point.

  9. Rocķy says:

    I would love stranger things just for its accuracy in bringing the 80’s back to life. It’s so dead on about everything. That includes the smoking.

  10. TheHeat says:

    I agree @Celebitchy. If they are going to minimize tobacco use in their shows, they should also be doing it for alcohol.
    Both are often portrayed as cool or fun. And both substances cause addiction and early deaths.

  11. Becks1 says:

    It doesn’t bother me in shows that are set in the past. Even in new shows, if the smoking is random and occasional, I usually don’t even notice. I think in stranger things it makes sense, especially given the high stress levels involved. the teenagers aren’t smoking, just the adults, right?

    We have one episode to go for Season 3 and I can.not.wait.

  12. Leslie says:

    Honestly, I find smoking disgusting and don’t want to see it on screen no matter what time period the show or film is set in. I wish more movies and tv removed smoking from their content.

    • ME says:

      That is true. But being around smokers in real life is 1000 worse. I can’t stand walking in to a store and having to walk by people smoking right outside the door ! Sometimes it’s the employees and sometimes it’s a customer waiting for a ride. It’s f*cking gross and I’m tired of having to hold my breath as I walk by them.

  13. Vanessa says:

    I remember when the X-Files had to change the character “Cancer Man” to “Cigarette Smoking Man” because they were threatened by the tobacco companies, and it kind of ruined the flow of that character for me and sounded stupid.

  14. Anilehcim says:

    I like that people don’t want to see smoking and that society as a whole seems to have really turned on it. As a former smoker myself, I am proudly one of those obnoxious assholes who hates smoking now. Smoking was arguably the biggest mistake of my life.

    Conversely, though, the show does a great job at portraying the 80s accurately, and SHOCKER, huge numbers of people smoked back then. This newfound trend of trying to judge history based on our current viewpoints is getting stupid. It’s one thing if you look back and learn, that is fantastic and should be expected, but to look back and try to erase elements of the past is just plain stupid. People smoked back then. Get over it. Nobody is glorifying it or saying we should do it now.

  15. Aenflex says:

    Oh bother. This is ridiculous. So people are letting their kids watch this, and they’re worried about the smoking? I wonder if they have any idea the shenanigans kids get up to at school, when they get together. How many young teens have already watch pron, and there they are worried about cigarettes in a gory monster show.

  16. Lulu says:

    Smoking does look cool on film because the people smoking are usually cool and funny, using cigarettes as accessory or smoking as backdrop to their entire being. IRL, it’s gross. My parents and grandparents were old fashioned 50s kind of people who smoked and drank everyday after work. Smoking, especially indoors, drinks and caused my allergies to go viral (lol). As cool as they looked I never picked up on it because it was so gross and my eyes got so red. But people have to acknowledge how visual and media influence affect the psyche. It’s extremely powerful.

  17. Barbiem says:

    Hey I loved season 3 as much as season 1. I thought 2 was just okay. I happily binged season 3 and it did not dissappoint

  18. Amelie says:

    I really don’t see smoking as any different than showing characters doing drugs or drinking. Shows portray teens and adults drinking all the time. Yes, alcoholism can kill you and can become an addiction just like cigarettes. You can also become addicted to drugs and that can also kill you. Why is there this obsession with smoking over all other “evils?” Shows also portray rape, murder, underage sex, and just death as well. Stranger Things shows quite a lot of violence and death yet I’m not hearing about people complaining about children becoming violent and killing others (a major argument for kids playing video games in the 1990s and it has been proven there is no correlation between playing video games and violence). Stranger Things also shows kids and adults cursing as well and I dunno, I don’t see anyone getting offended at the swear words lobbed about. It’s a bit weird to me people are so fixated on the smoking aspect when there’s other things on the show that are problematic!

    So yeah I don’t get this. People smoked everywhere in the 1980s and 1990s. I remember the smoking sections in restaurants as a kid. It was a part of the culture back then. All Stranger Things has to do is slap some kind of advisory smoking content before the show starts and voila.

    As for the actual season, I binge watched it in a few days and I still think the show is entertaining, creepy, and still enjoying the small town weirdness of Hawkins. But I do agree that Hopper’s character was unbearable this season and poor Winona Ryder was reduced to not doing much apart from yelling at Hopper for being unreasonable all the time. Not really a spoiler but Joyce and Hopper pair up this season and I think the Duffer Brothers wanted to show this buddy cop kind of relationship of tired constant bickering… one of the worst tropes to resort to. But other than that I enjoyed it. This show was always meant to be campy and ridiculous and it lives up to its silly name.

    • Granger says:

      Uh… telling us that Joyce and Hopper pair up this season is NOT a spoiler? Just because there have been hints that it might eventually happen doesn’t necessarily mean it was inevitable! I would call that a spoiler.

      • Amelie says:

        When I said pair up I meant they have lots of scenes together. Like how Steve and Dustin pair up for example. Don’t read too much into it. Pair up doesn’t automatically mean romance.

  19. Suz says:

    Hopper is nothing but a violent drunk this season. Kids find his smoking glamorous?

  20. Newbie says:

    It’s set during a time where my Dr father and all his colleagues had ashtrays on their desks in a children’s hospital. People didn’t smoke on the wards themselves (that went out in the early 70s) but in the offices, even people who didn’t smoke, like my Dad, had it as standard office stuff, along with the desk blotter.

    People need to stop expecting popular culture to raise their kids for them.

  21. Stacy J Henry says:

    OK so a show that is STEEPED in trying to be as true to the 80s as possible can’t show SMOKING?!? Seriously, I grew up mostly in the late 70s and 80s, and there was smoking everywhere. I mean, I know that you could take it out and not change the story. And I don’t care if they take it out because I LOATHE smoking. But I can’t criticize the show for showing it the real way. And I certainly don’t think they make it look cool at all….kids today KNOW that smoking is bad (Just like we knew it back then too…inhaling smoke into your lungs has never NOT been a bad idea).

  22. Trex says:

    Spoiler Alert: Yr an idiot.

  23. Anna says: