Michigan AG urges streaming services to protect young viewers from tobacco imagery

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LANSING– Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today joined 42 other Attorneys General in urging the video streaming industry to limit tobacco use in their content to combat the increasing use of tobacco products by young people.

On behalf of the bipartisan alliance, The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent letters to the leading U.S. streaming services: Amazon.com, Apple, AT&T, CBS Corporation, Comcast Corporation, Discovery, The Walt Disney Company, Google, Netflix, Sony, Lionsgate, Viacom, and Walmart.

“My colleagues and I joined forces on this because we see the benefit in taking a proactive approach to protecting our young people from tobacco imagery,” said Nessel. “We have seen a significant rise in the use of e-cigarettes among middle and high schoolers since 2017 and given my position as Attorney General, I have a duty to protect Michigan’s children from the influences of tobacco use.”

The U.S. Surgeon General in 2012 confirmed tobacco imagery is linked to the “initiation of smoking among young people.” With a spike in e-cigarette use among middle and high school students from 2.1 million in 2017 to 3.6 million in 2018, the Attorneys General argue in their letters that preventing initiation and use of tobacco products is of critical importance to public health.  

The Attorneys General also note that in 2018, a report from The Truth Initiative found the streamed videos most popular with young viewers feature higher rates of tobacco content than programs shown on traditional television.

The Attorneys General recommended:

  • Eliminate or exclude tobacco imagery in all future original streamed content for young viewers, including any content rated TV-Y, TV-Y7, TV-G, TV-PG, TV-14, G, PG, and PG-13, and ensure that any promotional material such as previews, trailers, image galleries, and clips be tobacco-free. Content with tobacco imagery should be rated TV-MA or R and only recommended to adult viewers.
  • Only “recommend” or designate tobacco-free content for children, adolescents, families, and general audiences.
  • Improve or offer parental controls that are effective, prominent, and easy-to-use, that allow parents and guardians specifically to restrict access to all content with tobacco content, regardless of rating.
  • Mitigate the negative influence of tobacco content, from whatever source and with any rating, by streaming strong anti-smoking and/or anti-vaping public service announcements, as appropriate, before all videos with tobacco content.

“Tobacco is still the United States’ and our world’s greatest preventable killer,” said Nessel. “It is incumbent upon us to initiate this dialogue with the streaming services in an effort to protect our youth.”

Nessel joins the Attorneys General of Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin in submitting these letters.  

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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