Video streaming industry to protect young viewers from tobacco imagery


FRANKFORT, KY. (WTVQ) – A bipartisan coalition of 43 attorneys general will send letters to the U.S. streaming industry urging it to take proactive steps to protect young viewers from tobacco imagery in video content.

Officials say the letters were sent to, Apple, AT&T, CBS Corporation, Comcast Corporation, Discovery, The Walt Disney Company, Google, Lionsgate, Netflix, Sony, Viacom and Walmart.

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According to the U.S. Surgeon General, tobacco imagery is linked to the “initiation of smoking among young people.”

Recent reports by the Truth Initiative and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that on-demand content contained more tobacco imagery than traditional content or broadcast shows, and more than half of PG-13 films released between 2002 and 2017 showed tobacco use.

Beshear said, while smoking remains the number one preventable killer in the U.S., causing over 480,000 deaths per year, the CDC indicates the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes is increasing, with 2.1 million users in 2017 compared to 3.6 million users in 2018.

“Preventing young Kentuckians from starting and continuing to smoke is of critical importance to my office and to the public health of our communities,” Beshear said. “Video streaming companies have an opportunity to work with us to entertain young people, while protecting them from the dangers of tobacco use.”

Recommendations provided by the attorneys general include eliminating or excluding tobacco imagery in streamed content for young viewers, “recommending” or designating only tobacco-free content for youth and family audiences, improving parental controls and mitigating the negative influence of imagery.