Attorney General Leevin Taitano Camacho joined a bipartisan coalition of 43 attorneys general, co-led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, urging the streaming industry to limit tobacco use in their video content. Due to the growing use of tobacco products amongst teens, the attorneys general urged the streaming industry to take proactive steps to protect the lives of young viewers. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes rose from 2.1 million in 2017 to 3.6 million in 2018.
“Guam has one of the highest youth smoking rates in the country,” said AG Camacho. “We hope that the streaming industry shares our goal of reducing the use of tobacco products by young people.”
According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey for Guam, 1 out of every 5 students surveyed aged 13 – 15 years-old reported using tobacco products. According to that same study, 1 out of every 3 students surveyed aged 13 – 15 years-old were using electronic cigarettes. The survey was conducted in 2017 by the Department of Public Health and Social Service, in partnership with the Guam Department of Education.
In 2012, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that watching movies with tobacco imagery increases the likelihood that adolescents will become smokers. In their letter, the Attorneys General urge the video streaming industry to adopt the following policies to protect young viewers from the ill effects of tobacco content:
• 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.
In 1998, Attorneys General across the nation fought to enter into the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which imposed major restrictions on tobacco company marketing practices and prohibits advertising aimed at youth. This included banning the advertisement of tobacco products on TV shows, movies and other video content. Despite the ban, studies by the public health organization Truth Initiative found a high rate of tobacco content in streamed videos that are popular with young viewers. In particular, the study discovered high rates of tobacco usage in TV-Y and TV-PG shows. Further, a 2018 study found the streamed videos that are most popular with young viewers feature higher rates of tobacco content than programs shown on traditional television. A 2019 report by the Truth Initiative showed that the danger has only grown in the past year.
Attorney General Camacho was joined by the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, 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.
The Consumer Protection Division manages the Master Settle Agreement and deceptive practices for the OAG. For more information, you may contact them at 475-3244 ext. 3250. To read the letter in full, click here.