Category Archives: Smoking in cartoons

Netflix to cut smoking — even on ‘Bojack’?

An oblivious Bojack blows smoke in little Sarah Lynn’s face.

Netflix announced this week that it’s cutting smoking in some of its shows.

One of the shows that has taken a lot of heat for portaying a hell of a lot of smoking is Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” The sheriff in that show is constantly smoking and Stranger Things has been specifically targeted by anti-tobacco advocates.

Personally, I’ve sure noticed that Netflix’s Bojack Horseman has a lot of smoking, but then again, it’s a show about an alcoholic, self-destructive, pill-popping, clinically depressed horse, so smoking kind of fits right in with his character. Bojack even smokes as a child after seeing Secretariat smoke on TV. His abusive mother catches him and forces him to smoke the entire cigarette just to show him that she hates him.

Bojack recalls this terrible memory of his mother’s cruelty as he’s smoking a cigarette … which he clearly isn’t enjoying.

Baby Bojack smoking his first cigarette after seeing Secretariat smoking on TV.

There’s a scene in another show where Bojack is blowing smoke right in a little girl’s face and making her cough, but he’s such a narcissist he doesn’t even notice. The scene takes place from the 1990s, when some people were still buttheads about smoking around kids.

Another interesting sidenote about Bojack Horseman. His mother smoked constantly in the show and in the end, she dies of Alzheimer’s. I wonder if the people in the show even know that studies show a connection between smoking and Alzheimer’s and if they gave that some thought.

Interesting , the rise of smoking on TV is happening while depictions of smoking is on the downswing in movies. Disney (which is also Marvel and Star Wars) has a specific policy that no smoking is allowed in its movies. (There is one really brief cigarette scene in the extreme hard R-rated “Deadpool 2”. Deadpool literally uses a cigarette to kill himself. In the commentary on that movie, Ryan Reynolds said it just made more sense that since Deadpool is killing himself, he should be smoking a cigarette, not a joint.

Bojack’s mother, Beatrice, who died of Alzheimer’s after a lifetime of smoking.

Other shows mentioned in this article are “Orange is the New Black,” and the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

The Truth Initiative, which monitors tobacco depictions in the media, has noticed the increase in smoking onscreen in its “While You Were Streaming” report.

Robot Chicken spoofs smoking in cartoons

robot chicken 3
Robot Chicken spoofing an old Flintstones commercial for cigarettes.

Saw a really funny Robot Chicken episode on Adult Swim Sunday night poking fun at tobacco use among kids’ cartoon characters.

Being Robot Chicken, it was  a bit demented, but still funny. The skit shows Fred Flintstone, Olive Oyl and Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland all in a hospital ward dying of lung disease. And the Pink Panther is also shown coughing and wheezing after taking a drag on his cigarette (Remember, the Pink Panther smoked, too.).

robot chicken 9

The Pink Panther has emphysema. Fred, who once actually was used by Winston cigarettes as a spokesman, is dying and is forced to use an electronic voice box. I cracked up at one of the comments on the YouTube video of the old Flintstone’s 1961 Winston commercial. A YouTube user said she had no idea there was a Flintstone’s cigarette ad until she saw the Robot Chicken skit.


robot chicken 5
Popeye smokes in the lung disease ward

Olive Oyl has lung disease from secondhand smoke from Popeye’s pipe and Caterpillar, who famously smoked a hookah in the 1950s Disney cartoon, is dying of lung cancer. In the Disney cartoon, in fact, not only did the Caterpillar smoke, he smoked around children and blew cigarette smoke right into Alice’s face. Alice didn’t cough or wheeze from it in the slightest. Jesus.

alice cigarette smoke
Alice having smoke blown in her face by the Caterpillar in Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland”

Popeye walks into the hospital ward and lights up his pipe, prompting a coughing fit from Olive Oyl. Barnie Rubble makes fun of Fred’s voice, then lights one of his Winstons near Fred’s oxygen tank, blowing them all up.

robot chicken 1


It’s demented fun, but the skit makes the point that there was a shocking amount of smoking in kids’ cartoons — Pinocchio, Goofy, Tom and Jerry all smoked. In fact, there continued to be a lot of smoking in kids’ cartoons right up until the early 2000s in Hiyao Miyazaki movies like “Spirited Away.”  For some reason, Miyazaki always seems to include a lot of smoking in most of his anime films.

Here is the Robot Chicken skit:

Flintstones cigarette commercial:

Pink Panther smoking:

Popeye smoking:

The Caterpillar smoking: