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Attorney General Nessel Joins Bipartisan Coalition in Urging Creative Community to Protect Young Viewers from Tobacco Imagery

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel recently joined a coalition 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 coalition sent letters to five Hollywood creative guilds as part of an ongoing effort to reduce youth exposure to tobacco.  

Last year, a coalition of  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 normalization and glamorization of tobacco use, especially youth vaping. 

“The statistics across our nation and right here in Michigan very clearly demonstrate that youth vaping is not something we can turn a blind eye to. Across counties in Michigan last year, our state witnessed between a 30 percent and 118 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students. This increase is substantial and alarming and will require all hands on deck to change it,” said Nessel. “My colleagues and I encourage the creative guilds to join this very important dialogue to ensure our youth across this nation are protected from the influences of tobacco use.”  

According to an August 2020 report from The Truth Initiative, e-cigarette use doubled among high school students and tripled among middle school students from 2017 through 2019. Young people who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to start smoking cigarettes, are more likely to become addicted to nicotine, have more difficulty quitting and may be at higher risk for addiction to other substances. 

Tobacco is the No. 1 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 the letter sent Monday, 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, such as 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 and displaying prominent and forceful tobacco warnings, especially before content with smoking or vaping; and 
  • Offer effective parental controls, so families may be empowered to choose smoke-free content.  

Letters were sent to the Directors Guild of America, Producers Guild of America, Screenwriters Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. 

Attorney General Nessel 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, 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, Utah, Vermont, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin in sending the letters. 

A copy of the letter can be found here.