Stop Exposing Children to Tobacco Use in Video Games

Target: President of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), Patricia E. Vance

Goal: Restrict cigarette and tobacco use in video games with ratings less than “Adults Only.”

Children are being exposed to the glorification of cigarettes and tobacco through the numerous video games they play. This is a problematic situation because children are at a heightened risk of vulnerability to images of tobacco use–nearly nine out of 10 smokers start smoking by the age of 18 according to the Surgeon General. Because children are more likely to be influenced by the use of tobacco they see in video games, it is essential that we start limiting the use of cigarettes and tobacco in today’s games.

Tobacco use in video games is problematic for multiple reasons. First, the way that tobacco and smoking are represented in video games is largely positive. For example, researchers at the Truth Initiative found that many young gamers described characters who smoke as more “bad ass” or “more in charge.”  In short, the video games are glamorizing the use of tobacco.

Secondly, there is a large presence of tobacco in games as is evidenced by a study from the University of California San Francisco which found that 42 percent of video games in 2015 contain characters smoking tobacco and/or other tobacco references. Finally, tobacco use in video games is dangerous because of how much video games are played by children and how immersive the experience of gaming is. Essentially, video games give tobacco a strong platform to sell itself.

Because video gaming is on the rise among our nation’s youth and tobacco is a dangerous and highly addictive drug, it is essential that we demand the restriction of tobacco use in video games that are not only approved for adult use. Sign this petition urging the president of the ESRB to restrict the use of tobacco in video games.


Dear Ms. Vance,

I am writing to encourage you to enact restrictions on the use of cigarettes and tobacco in video games that are being played by children and teenagers. Studies have shown that taking up smoking usually happens at a young age when people are most impressionable–the Surgeon General found that nearly nine out of 10 smokers start smoking by the age of 18. Because of the heightened use of video games by our nation’s youth, I implore you to restrict representations of smoking and tobacco that may be negatively impacting the young people playing these games.

The use of tobacco in video games is problematic in many ways, starting with fact that many of the portrayals glamorize smoking and tobacco. Many young players describe characters who smoke as “bad ass,” signaling the idea that smoking in some way makes you cool.

In addition, the fact that 42 percent of games in 2015 have smoking or tobacco used or referenced speaks to the sheer volume of these products’ exposure to our youth. Finally, video games are a highly influential platform–some professionals believe that games, because of their interactive and immersive nature, may have more influence on young minds than movies.

With video gaming on the rise among our nation’s youth, it is essential that we take measures to prevent them from overexposure to cigarettes and tobacco. These addictive and dangerous substances can no longer be glamorized within video game culture, and I ask that you please enact restrictions on their portrayal in video games that children and teenagers have access to.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Lars Frantzen

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