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Tobacco-free screens: Changing the picture on the tobacco industry’s influence in popular entertainment

April 4, 2023 | On Demand
Tobacco Free Screens Impact Series

With on-screen entertainment options continuing to grow in popularity and offerings, Big Tobacco continues to maintain its recurring and often starring role on screens. Even as peer-reviewed research shows on-screen exposure to smoking images makes young people three times more likely to start vaping nicotine, 60 percent of the most popular shows among 15- to 24-year-olds contained depictions of tobacco in 2021, the same as 2020 and effectively exposing 25 million young people to tobacco imagery. Furthermore, on-screen tobacco use is also featured among nearly half of 2021’s top movies – including 17 of those rated PG or PG-13 – which collectively reached almost 25 million young people, as well as a number of top music videos which were viewed over 2 billion times. During the recent Academy Awards, 9 out of 10 Best Picture nominees – including the winning film – featured tobacco imagery, as well as more than 70 percent of the total films nominated at the ceremony. And a recent report showed that the tobacco industry is working to grow a wider and younger audience through their partnership with Formula 1 racing and their popular Netflix series “Drive to Survive.”

With the release of Truth Initiative’s fifth annual “While You Were Streaming” report, “Tobacco’s Starring Role: How Onscreen Tobacco Imagery Drives Youth E-Cigarette Use and What the Entertainment Industry Can Do To Change the Picture,” advocates and elected officials alike are calling on entertainment companies and celebrities to better understand the consequences of tobacco imagery and refuse to allow their platforms to help the tobacco industry put a new generation at risk for a lifetime of nicotine addiction. This Truth Initiative Impact Series will explore the issue of tobacco prevalence in popular entertainment and how individuals in the entertainment industry can work to change the picture.

Moderated by Hannah Yasharoff, an entertainment and lifestyle reporter at USA Today, this discussion will shine a light on how entertainment companies and celebrities can better understand the consequences of tobacco imagery on-screen and refuse to allow their platforms to help the tobacco industry put a new generation at risk for a lifetime of nicotine addiction.

Note: While Truth Initiative is the host of this panel discussion, the views and comments provided by the panelists are their own.

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Truth Initiative Impact Series

The Truth Initiative Impact Series is a robust, recurring event that brings together key stakeholders and experts to engage in thought-provoking conversations about ways we can innovate and inspire action to achieve a culture where young people reject smoking, vaping, and nicotine. The goal of this thought leadership series is to convene diverse partners in tobacco control and other public health organizations, parents, teachers, and policy makers, who can benefit from Truth Initiative’s work.