Smoking is bad, but violence...?
Gears 5 Truth Initiative

Gears 5 will not include any depictions of smoking. The upcoming third-person shooter, slated for release on September 10 on PC and Xbox One, does away with all tobacco use after a push from the Truth Initiative. The anti-smoking organization, Truth Initiative, approached Turner, the company that owns the rights to broadcast Gears 5 ELeague esports matches. Turner, after speaking with Truth Initiative, spoke to The Coalition about the removal of the use of tobacco from the game.

Previous entries in the Gears of War franchise have had bits of tobacco use. This ranged from characters smoking regular cigarettes to smoking a cigar. Seth Ladetsky, senior VP of Turner Sports Sales and head of Turner Sports Digital and ELeague sales strategy and revenue, says that the removal of tobacco from Gears 5 has been in the works for months.

Gears 5 still includes plenty of blood, guts, shooting, and violence. Though studies have shown that there are essentially no links between violent video games and real-world violence, similar studies have not been made about smoking in games leading to real-world smoking habits. However, it seems as though studies have been shown that find a correlation between tobacco use in entertainment (in general) leading people to smoke.

"Is there a double standard in keeping the violence while the parties involved congratulate themselves for their anti-smoking stance? For one thing, as the video-game industry has repeatedly noted, there’s no evidence of a causal link between violent crime and gaming. Ladetsky said the elimination of smoking doesn’t change the nature of the game itself, and he cited research that shows a correlation between higher exposure to tobacco depictions in entertainment and a higher incidence of smoking adoption among younger people. “As you remove these images, it does have an impact,” he said.
Rod Fergusson, the studio lead at The Coalition, issued a statement.

“I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact of smoking. It’s always been important for me to not use smoking as a narrative device, which is why we made the conscious choice to avoid highlighting or glorifying smoking in ‘Gears 5’ and throughout the Gears of War Universe moving forward.” According to a rep for Xbox Games Studio, the decision was done solely by The Coalition.
Robin Koval, the CEO and president of Truth Initiative said that, "we are hopeful that this decision will encourage other game developers and streaming tournaments to follow this lead and level up the gaming experience by going tobacco-free." Level up, eh? Alrighty. That little bit of "how do you do, fellow kids" aside, the general message is commendable.

This weekend will be the first esports tournament for Gears 5. This single-elimination ELeague Gears Summer Series Invitation begins Saturday, July 13 at noon (ET) at the ELeague Arena at Turner Studios in Atlanta. According to consulting firm Activage, 62% of esports viewers in the United States are between the ages of 18-34.

The Truth Initiative is a non-profit organization that began as part of the Master Settlement Agreement of 1999 between cigarette companies and most of the United States. The tobacco companies agreed to pay billions to the states. Part of that money was used to establish a national foundation to try to prevent youth smoking.

(via Variety)