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Attorney General Reyes Urges Creative Community to Protect Young Viewers from Tobacco Imagery

October 5, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today joined a coalition of a total of 43 attorneys general in urging the creative community to take action to protect young viewers from tobacco imagery in streamed movies and programs. The California and Nebraska-led coalition directed letters to five creative guilds as part of an ongoing effort to reduce youth exposure to tobacco. Last year, a coalition of 43 attorneys general sent letters urging the streaming industry to limit tobacco imagery in their video content. The creative guilds’ assistance and support is critical to stopping the renormalization and glamorization of tobacco use, especially youth vaping.

Tobacco is the number one preventable killer in the United States, with over 480,000 Americans dying from tobacco-related diseases every year. A growing body of evidence indicates that vaping can permanently damage lungs and lead to a lifetime of tobacco and nicotine use.

In the race to launch new platforms, provide more content, and capture audiences, many streaming companies failed to consider the impact that easy access to movies and programs with tobacco imagery would have on children. In 2012, following a decade of studies, the Surgeon General concluded that “[t]here is a causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the movies and the initiation of smoking among young people.” More recently, a study by the Truth Initiative found that children who watch episodic programs with tobacco content are significantly more likely to begin vaping than those who are not exposed to such content. Even those with low levels of exposure were more than twice as likely to start using e-cigarettes, and those with high exposure were over three times more likely. 

In today’s letters, the bipartisan coalition urges Hollywood’s creative guilds to use their collective influence to persuade members of the creative community to depict tobacco imagery more responsibly and to encourage streaming companies to:

  • Adopt best practices that steer young viewers away from content with tobacco imagery, including excluding tobacco imagery in future content targeting children;
  • Only recommend and promote tobacco-free titles for children and families; 
  • Mitigate the historic and cumulative impact of watching tobacco imagery by running strong anti-tobacco spots, especially before content with smoking or vaping;
  • Display prominent and forceful tobacco warnings before content with tobacco imagery; and
  • Offer effective parental controls, so families may be empowered to choose smoke-free content.

Attorney General Reyes joins the attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, the Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, the Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin in sending the letters.

A copy of the letter to the Directors Guild of America can be read here.

A copy of the letter to the Producers Guild of America can be read here.

A copy of the letter to the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists can be read here.

A copy of the letter to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees can be read here.

A copy of the letter to the Writers Guild of America-East here.

A copy of the letter to the Writers Guild of America-West here.

AG Reyes and 43 Attorneys General Urge Streaming Industry to Limit Tobacco Use

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 7, 2019

A.G. Reyes: “Protect Young Video Viewers from Tobacco”
43 Attorneys General Urge Streaming Industry to Limit Tobacco Use

AGs provide policy guidelines to combat increasing use of tobacco products by young people

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today joined a bipartisan coalition of 43 attorneys general, in urging the streaming video industry to limit tobacco use in their content. Due to the growing use of tobacco and e-cigarette products among teens, the attorneys general urge the streaming industry to take proactive steps to protect the lives of young viewers.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes rose from 2.1 million in 2017 to 3.6 million in 2018.  Smoking remains the number one preventable killer in the United States and causes over 480,000 deaths per year.

Attorney General Reyes is committed to protecting public health by reducing the number of smokers and ensuring tobacco companies meet their obligations under the tobacco settlement.

“Given the recent significant rise in tobacco use by young people, particularly the use of e-cigarettes, preventing initiation and use of tobacco products is of critical importance to us and the public health community, and we sincerely hope it will be addressed by the streaming industry,” read the letters signed by 43 state and territory attorneys general.

In 2012, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that watching movies with tobacco imagery increases the likelihood that adolescents will become smokers. In their letter, the Attorneys General urge the video streaming industry to adopt the following policies to protect young viewers from the ill effects of tobacco content:

  • Eliminate or exclude tobacco imagery in all future original streamed content for young viewers, including any content rated TV-Y, TV-Y7, TV-G, TV-PG, TV-14, G, PG, and PG-13, and ensure that any promotional material such as previews, trailers, image galleries, and clips be tobacco-free. Content with tobacco imagery should be rated TV-MA or R and only recommended to adult viewers. 
  • Only “recommend” or designate tobacco-free content for children, adolescents, families, and general audiences.
  • Improve or offer parental controls that are effective, prominent, and easy-to-use, that allow parents and guardians specifically to restrict access to all content with tobacco content, regardless of rating.
  • Mitigate the negative influence of tobacco content, from whatever source and with any rating, by streaming strong anti-smoking and/or anti-vaping public service announcements, as appropriate, before all videos with tobacco content.

In 1998, Attorneys General across the nation fought to enter into the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which imposed major restrictions on tobacco company marketing practices and prohibits advertising aimed at youth. This included banning the advertisement of tobacco products on TV shows, movies and video content. Despite the ban, studies by the public health organization Truth Initiative found a high rate of tobacco content in streamed videos that are popular with young viewers. In particular, the study discovered high rates of tobacco usage in TV-Y and TV-PG shows. Further, a 2018 study found the streamed videos that are most popular with young viewers feature higher rates of tobacco content than programs shown on traditional television. A 2019 report by the Truth Initiative showed that the danger has only grown in the past year.  

In sending today’s letter, Attorney General Reyes was joined by the Attorneys General of California, Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

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Notes:

  1. In 2018, Attorney General Reyes announced a $300 million settlement agreement with major tobacco companies: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/ago-secures-settlement-with-tobacco-companies/
  2. In 2014, Attorney General Reyes joined with 45 other attorneys general to urge the U.S. Trade Representative to exclude tobacco and tobacco products when negotiating all international trade and investment agreements: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/attorney-general-sean-d-reyes-is-one-of-45-attorneys-general-to-push-for-state-and-local-tobacco-regulation/
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