The most dangerous thing in Hawkins, IA might not actually be the Mind Flayer. According to a new study from the anti-smoking group the Truth Initiative, cigarettes are plaguing the storylines and characters on Stranger Things. The group cited a 44% increase in depictions of smoking between the first and second seasons of the hit show, prompting Netflix to implement some changes.
“Netflix strongly supports artistic expression,” a company spokesman said in a statement to Variety. “We also recognise that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people.”
Going forward, all new shows from the company rated TV-14 and below, as well as films rated PG-13 and below, will not include smoking or e-cigarette use unless needed for "historical or factual accuracy," Variety reports. For shows and movies with stricter ratings, these things will only be depicted if they are "essential to the creative vision of the artist or because it’s character-defining (historically or culturally important)."
In March 2018, Truth Initiative found that Stranger Things had the most instances of tobacco use at 182 among all Netflix shows examined. In season 2, that number went up to 262. While season 3, released on July 4, has not yet been reviewed, the most recent seasons of other Netflix shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Orange Is The New Black, and House of Cards had similar increases.
“Content has become the new tobacco commercial,” CEO and president of Truth Initiative, Robin Koval, said in a statement to Variety. “We’re seeing a pervasive reemergence of smoking imagery across screens that is glamorising and re-normalising a deadly addiction and putting young people squarely in the crosshairs of the tobacco industry.”
Refinery29 has reached out Netflix for comment.