Probably not actually:
Sales of the world-famous cigarettes, owned by British American Tobacco, reached 33 billion packets last year compared to 23 billion 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 glamorisation 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.”
Let’s take this as read then, that people are definitely smoking more Lucky Strikes as a result of the coolness factor of Mad Men.
But we’ve two possible outcomes here. One is that the same number of people are smoking the same number of cigarettes, it’s just that there’s been a move from, say, Winston to Luckies.
The other is that the growth in the sale of Luckies has come from more people smoking ore cigarettes.
In option one advertising would be working just like the cigarette companies say it does: it moves people around between brands. In option two it would be working like the campaigners says it does, in increasing smoking in general.
So, anyone got the numbers for total tobacco sales?
Given that we know that smoking is in gentle decline my best guess is that we’re in a world where option 1 is true. That is, that this rise in the number of Luckies sold as a result of the branding is cannibalisation of extant sales, not an increase in total sales.
And of course, if this is true, then the case for plain packs and no branding is entirely demolished. For if it doesn’t increase smoking, only changes what is smoked, then there is no public health grounds to ban the branding, is there?