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Attorney General Josh Stein Works to Protect Young Viewers from Tobacco Imagery and Vaping Risks

For Immediate Release:
Monday, October 5, 2020

Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today urged the creative community to take action to protect young viewers from tobacco imagery in streamed movies and programs. Such imagery increases the chances that young people will begin using e-cigarette products, which carry serious health risks and are fueling a youth vaping epidemic.

“Young people are vaping at staggering rates,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “I urge content creators not to glamorize e-cigarette use and instead to educate young people about the associated health and addiction risks. We cannot let another generation of young people become addicted to nicotine.”

Tobacco is the number one preventable killer in the United States, with more than 480,000 Americans dying from tobacco-related diseases every year. While tobacco use among teens dropped from 28 percent to just above 5 percent from 2000 to 2017, the rise of e-cigarettes has led the number of high schoolers using tobacco products back up to nearly 30 percent and 7 percent among middle schoolers. Health risks include nicotine addiction, nicotine poisoning, heart disease, lung disease, and behavior changes.

In the race to launch new platforms, provide more content, and capture audiences, many streaming companies failed to consider the effects that easy access to movies and programs with tobacco imagery would have on children. Studies indicate that children who watch content with tobacco imagery are significantly more likely to begin vaping than those who are not exposed to such content, with the likelihood of using e-cigarettes increasing with higher levels of exposure to such content.

The creative guilds’ assistance and support is critical to stopping the renormalization and glamorization of tobacco use, especially youth vaping. In letters 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 Stein and 42 other attorneys general urge the creative community to:

  • Adopt best practices that steer young viewers away from content with tobacco imagery.
  • Recommend and promote tobacco-free titles for children and families.
  • Run strong anti-tobacco spots, especially before content with smoking or vaping.
  • Display prominent tobacco warnings before content with tobacco imagery.
  • Offer effective parental controls so families can choose content without tobacco imagery.

Attorney General Stein has been leading the fight against the national teen vaping epidemic. He filed the first state lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul in May 2019 for aggressively marketing their products to young people and misrepresenting the dangers of the nicotine in e-cigarettes. He also filed lawsuits against eight additional e-cigarette companies in August 2019 for aggressively targeting children and lax age verification processes. The courts barred most of these companies from selling any e-cigarette products in North Carolina for the duration of the lawsuits.

Attorney General Stein is joined in sending today’s letter by 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, the Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, the Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

A copy of the letter to the Directors Guild of America is available here.
A copy of the letter to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees is available here.
A copy of the letter to the Producers Guild of America is available here.
A copy of the letter to the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is available here.
A copy of the letter to the Writers Guild of America East is available here.
A copy of the letter to the Writers Guild of America West is available here.

More on Attorney General Stein’s work on the teen vaping epidemic and e-cigarettes:


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