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The surprising thing almost all Emmy-nominated dramas and comedies have in common

This year’s batch of Emmy-nominated shows may be celebrating the chance to compete for television’s top prize, but almost all the finalists in the comedy and drama categories are losing when it comes to public health. All—except one—feature characters smoking. 

While cigarette advertising on television was banned in the 1970s, the expansion of the media landscape and popularity of screening platforms has created even more opportunities for tobacco exposure. Tobacco imagery in movies can cause young people to start smoking, according to a 2012 report from the U.S. Surgeon General, and tobacco in any form of entertainment contributes to the perceived normalization of smoking. (Truth Initiative® has joined other public health groups in advocating an R rating for any movie with tobacco use, unless it is a documentary, depicts historical figures who smoked or portrays the negative effects of tobacco.)

Smoking imagery has no place in pop culture.

"As smoking has become a less socially acceptable behavior, it continues to be portrayed positively in movies and increasingly in streaming video content and in video games," said Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative. "While we've made huge progress in reducing the youth smoking rate to 6 percent, we need to make sure we don’t backslide by giving youth the impression that smoking is the norm. Smoking imagery has no place in pop culture."

Thirteen Emmy-nominated comedies and dramas from the 2016-17 television season—all nominees in those categories, except "Black-ish" (ABC)—portray smoking. These include: "Better Call Saul" (AMC), "The Crown" (Netflix), "The Handmaid's Tale" (Hulu), "House of Cards" (Netflix), "Stranger Things" (Netflix), "This Is Us" (NBC), "Westworld" (HBO), "Atlanta" (FX), "Master of None" (Netflix), "Modern Family" (ABC), "Silicon Valley" (HBO), "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" (Netflix) and "Veep" (HBO).

Here are some examples of the screen-time smoking got in these shows. 

Stranger Things

“Stranger things”

Steve, a popular high school student and one of the main characters in Netflix’s sci-fi hit "Stranger Things," puffs on a cigarette poolside. 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

"Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"

On the Netflix comedy "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," Gretchen, Kimmy’s former bunkmate from years of underground captivity, smokes a cigarette in her life as a free woman.

Better Call Saul

"Better Call Saul"

Kim Wexler, a lawyer in "Better Call Saul," smokes during a tense situation despite the fact that cigarettes are not effective stress-relievers



Although the alternate reality theme park in "Westworld" is futuristic, the decision to show its corporate leader smoking cigarettes is very behind the times.

House of Cards

"House of Cards"

The political mastermind at the center of "House of Cards" does so many things behind closed doors. Does smoking have to be one of them?

For more on smoking in popular culture, read about tobacco imagery in video games and movies.