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Netflix To Cut Down On People Smoking In Shows After 'Stranger Things' Outcry

Tobacco featured in every episode of 'Stranger Things' first two seasons, and Netflix has caved to pressure to change how smoking is shown in its programs.

Netflix had nearly triple the number of tobacco instances (866) in 2016-2017 compared with 2015-2016 (299), according to a report from The Truth Initiative.

Researchers found literally every episode from the first two seasons of Netflix's original series Stranger Things included tobacco references.

The streaming giant responded to the report with a statement promising to cut down on depictions of smoking in its programming targeted toward young viewers.

Researchers found 100 percent of episodes from Netflix's original series Stranger Things included tobacco references. Image: Netflix.

"Going forward, all new projects we commission with ratings of TV-14 or below for series or PG-13 or below for films, will be smoking and e-cigarette free -- except for reasons of historical or factual accuracy," the statement reads.

New projects aimed at older audiences will have non-smoking characters "unless it's essential to the creative vision of the artist or because it's character-defining (historically or culturally important)."

The streaming service has also committed to including smoking information in the ratings box that appears when users begin watching a show in the future.

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The report, released before the show's season three premiere this week, found a jump in tobacco depictions from Stranger Things' first (182) to second (262) season.

The series was among the most popular shows of the 750 youth and young adults between 15-24 who participated in The Truth Initiative survey.

For both years surveyed, programming on Netflix had a greater total number of tobacco depictions than programs aired on broadcast or cable TV.

In addition to smoking, tobacco depictions included things like a cigar in an ashtray or cigarettes in a store. The report confirmed 1,209 of these instances across studied programs in 2016-17, with a staggering 866 credited to Netflix.

The Truth Initiative's recommendations include a ratings system, anti-tobacco ads, responsible content practices and careful monitoring of programming.

"We cannot allow young people, who are already the most vulnerable to initiate smoking, to continue to be inundated with tobacco imagery," the group said.

The report found streaming services should heed lessons learned from the film industry that exposure to smoking on screens causes young people to smoke. Image: Getty

Tobacco smoking is one of the largest preventable causes of death and disease in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

New research by The Australian National University found smoking is killing at least 17 Australians a day from preventable cardiovascular conditions.

Encouraging data from The Cancer Council this year showed smoking among Australian teens was at its lowest since surveys began three decades earlier.

Over 14,000 Australian school children went from experimental to established smoking behaviour in 2017's latest study, down from 16,586 in 2014.cancer

Contact the author: samelia@networkten.com.au.