Mad Men blasted for boosting Lucky Strike cigarette sales

Posted on 23 September 2013
By Ian Mitchelmore
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American TV drama series Mad Men has triggered a dramatic boom in the sales of Lucky Strike cigarettes, causing outrage amongst anti-smoking campaigners.

Sales of the world-famous cigarettes, owned by British American Tobacco, reached a staggering 33bn packets last year compared to 23bn in 2007 when the show first aired.

Mad Men features New York ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in the 1960s and their turbulent relationship with iconic cigs brand Lucky Strike.

The AMC-produced show has won a worldwide audience with fan forums expressing admiration for the ad executives’ hard-drinking and chain smoking lifestyle.

There are even drinking and smoking games played at Mad Men parties, where revellers have to drink and smoke every time a character does on screen.

Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “It’s long been suspected that many people start smoking because they consider it ‘cool’.

“It is possible that programmes like Mad Men, where successful men in sharp suits chain smoke throughout the programme, 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.

“It would be deeply distressing if the glamourisation of smoking on TV was counteracting any of these achievements.

“One way to help cut the association of particular brands with their use in popular culture would be to introduce standardised plain packaging for all tobacco products.

“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.”

Lead character Don Draper is a chain smoker and regularly fires up one of his ‘Luckies’, but in recent episodes he started to develop a guilty conscience about marketing the cigarettes.

One episode featured Don, played by Hollywood heartthrob Jon Hamm, paying for an ad in the New York Times with an open letter entitled ‘Why I’m quitting tobacco’ after they lost their million dollar contract with them.