Politicians Ask Netflix to Limit Smoking and Vaping Content on TV Shows

By Jessica Lerner 

Netflix has been warned by U.S. politicians to limit young people’s exposure to smoking and vaping material, according to Bloomberg.

“We urge your company to take more aggressive steps to limit this imagery and decrease young people’s consumption of this harmful content,” wrote Sens. Ed Markey, Chris Van Hollen and Richard Blumenthal in a letter to Netflix co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos.

Per a report from the Truth Initiative, a public health nonprofit group, Netflix has presented more representations of smoking or vaping in series geared at young people in the previous four years than any other channel. According to the research, two Netflix programs, The Queen’s Gambit and The Umbrella Academy, both had more than 200 instances of smoking or vaping in their 2020 seasons.


In response to past complaints, Netflix committed in 2019 to reduce smoking representations and eliminate them completely in programming geared towards younger audiences. Since then, many Netflix series have increased the amount of episodes featuring cigarette imagery, the senators noted.

The senators asked the company for specific details about how they’ve implemented this policy, requesting a response by April 21.

This isn’t the first time Netflix has come under fire for its controversial content. After two years of receiving backlash for the explicit scene depicting a character’s suicide in the Season 1 finale of 13 Reasons Why, Netflix decided in 2019 to edit down the graphic scene.

“We’ve heard from many young people that 13 Reasons Why encouraged them to start conversations about difficult issues like depression and suicide and get help—often for the first time,” Netflix said in a statement at the time. “As we prepare to launch season three later this summer, we’ve been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. So on the advice of medical experts … we’ve decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from Season 1.”