Life imitates art this time around. The popular AMC seriesMad Men, which follows the lives of New York advertising executives lost in clouds of smoke. booze, and questionable decisions, may have contributed to a spike in cigarette sales last year.
Sales of the world-famous Lucky Strike cigarettes, the brand smoked incessantly and almost exclusively by the show's characters, reached 33 billion packs last year compared to 23 billion in 2007 when the first season of Mad Men aired.
The show faithfully recreates its 1960s setting, with both smoking and drinking ubiquitous in the workplace and in the home. Lucky Strike was more or less the main client of the fictional Sterling Cooper ad agency for the first several seasons of the show, though the relationship between both companies was later soured. Later, and under a new agency, the main characters create an anti-smoking campaign for the American Cancer Society, though they continue to smoke heavily.
Dr. Penny Woods, of the British Lung Foundation, thinks that Mad Men may be contributing to an unexpected rise in cigarette sales.
"It's long been suspected that many people start smoking because they consider it 'cool,' " she said. "It is possible that programs like Mad Men, where successful men in sharp suits chain smoke throughout the program, are playing a part in maintaining that image."
"Over the last decade, measures such as the smoking ban and the ban on tobacco advertising have helped cut the number of young people smoking in the UK," she continued. "It would be deeply distressing if the glamorization of smoking on TV was counteracting any of these achievements."
Dr. Woods suggested that TV shows and films employ the use of plain cigarette packages so that viewers don't associate particular brands used in pop culture with their real-life counterparts.
"That instant brand recognition would soon die out if the cigarette packs people buy in real life look nothing like the packaging they see on the screen. Plain packaging would finally stop tobacco companies getting round the ban on tobacco advertising by marketing their products through expensively designed wrapping."
Do you think that shows like Mad Men encourage smoking? Watch the video below and let us know if you get a nicotine tingle.