May 22, 2020

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Socially-responsible investors put Netflix on the spot over smoking in its programming

Locking down doesn't mean falling silent.

In this YouTube video, Cathy Rowan, representing the Maryknoll Sisters, asks the CEO of Netflix to pledge to keep future videos with substantial youth viewership smokefree — and keep tobacco brands out of all future videos, regardless of rating.

She asks CEO Reed Hastings (2019 compensation, $38.6 million):

With young people out of school and spending more time in front of the screen, how many are learning to smoke?

#AskTheCEO is a program started by the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), more than 300 global institutional investors managing half a trillion doillars in assets. The online feature directs shareholder questions to CEOs in virtual shareholder meetings. 

Socially-responsible investors have long worked to get smoking out of the films and TV shows that kids see most. They have filed shareholder resolutions and carry on direct dialogues with many of America's biggest media companies.

Netflix drew shareholders' attention in 2018, when Truth Initiative tagged it as the smokiest streaming service. Then, in 2019, Netflix's TV-14 show Stranger Things flooded the screen with tobacco brands.

Most recently, Smokefree Movies reported that 55 percent of Netflix's youth rated shows and 72 percent of its TV-MA shows featured smoking.

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Download UCSF's Netflix fact sheet and more.


This item, prepared by Jonathan Polansky, is cross-posted from the Smokefree Movies blog.

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