Paul Batura: Netflix bans smoking -- But what about other vices?

The popular streaming service Netflix announced plans this past week to exclude tobacco use from any of its new shows and movies that target younger audiences, specifically those below the age of 15.

“Netflix strongly supports artistic expression,” a spokesperson for the company announced in a statement. “We also recognize that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people.”


According to media reports, the decision stems from pressure from a Washington D.C. group called Truth Initiative, a large non-profit dedicated to eradicating tobacco and making its use “a thing of the past.”

Smoking is a nasty habit and no parent, especially those who are addicted to the daily use of cigarettes or other forms of tobacco products, want their kids to start using them. As such, eliminating the presence of the vice from television shows and movies young people watch makes good sense. After all, it is human nature to mimic what is glamorized or glorified, especially with impressionable young people.

Make no mistake – the dire health consequences of smoking are unassailable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1,300 people die each day from complications associated with smoking.

As an aside, but very related – I’ve been completely flummoxed by the simultaneous rise of anti-smoking forces and the increasing cultural acceptance of recreational marijuana use.

Does anybody not see the blatant contradiction? We demonize the Marlboro man and canonize the stoner?

But while I love the aroma of cigars and pipes – my grandfather and father once smoked both - I’ll acknowledge that Netflix’s decision to snuff out smoking is a good one – but it’s an uneven and wildly inconsistent standard.

What about other vices?

What about destructive behaviors - like having premarital sex and alcohol abuse?

My wife and I want our three sons to grow up to become responsible men who avoid the landmines that so often entrap and entangle young people today. Sadly, the typical television shows and movies contains material that’s the exact opposite of that ethic.

The CDC recently announced that 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted disease are popping up every year – with 9.5 million of them impacting people between the ages of 15 and 24.

In light of the “MeToo” era what about the depictions of scantily clad women – scenes that inevitably and eventually lead to the objectification of females and the very moral crisis we see unfolding on an almost daily basis with sexual harassment and worse?

What about the use of crass, crude and vile language that diminishes and demeans?

I know what you’re thinking:  This guy is a total prude, an out of touch puritan who wants to theocratize America and impose his narrow-minded mores on the rest of us.

Not quite. I simple want a healthier, happier and safer world for everybody.

As parents of three young boys, my wife and I trying to expose our children to good and wholesome things. We want to inspire them to grow up to become responsible men who see the value and potential in every person. We want to see them avoid the landmines that so often entrap and entangle young people today.

Sadly, the typical television shows and movies contains material that’s the exact opposite of that ethic.

The rise of streaming services like Pure Flix and VidAngel, entities that promise wholesome content, are in direct response to parents like us clamoring for uplifting family entertainment. It’s popular to deride Hallmark for its sappy and predictable movies – but they’re tapping into the same hunger that’s out there for clean content.


It’s often said that companies only produce what people will consume – and there’s some truth in such a claim. But Focus on the Family, the organization I represent, has long had an online site called Plugged In that’s dedicated to helping parents discern what’s in a movie, show or music album. We don’t tell you whether you should watch or listen – we simply let you know what it’s about – and let you decide. It’s our most popular site, garnering millions of visits each month.

Netflix might be surprised how many new customers they would garner if they started producing content that parents actually want instead of themes that regularly fall short or even stand in opposition to the values of the millions of moms and dads like me who want to see our kids accomplish more in life than avoid the smoking habit.