Netflix Curbs Tobacco Use Onscreen, But Not Pot. What’s Up With That?

Brett Gray (left) as Jamal Turner, and Peggy Blow as Abuela, a lovable, pot-smoking grandma, in the first season of the Netflix teen drama On My Block.

When is it wrong to show cigarette smoking on television, but OK to depict people smoking cannabis products, particularly in programming popular among young teenagers?

Netflix recently announced it would curb depictions of cigarette smoking in original programming intended for general audiences, after a Truth Initiative study showed its monster summer hit, Stranger Things, featured more tobacco use than any other program on streaming, broadcast or cable. There’s tobacco in every single episode.

Tobacco advertising has been banned on TV and in the movies for decades; when it comes to characters smoking cigarettes onscreen, restrictions are largely self-imposed. The Walt Disney Company is one of the few studios with a comprehensive and public policy about depicting tobacco use in movies.


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