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Will the Herbal-Cigarette Ban Make a Quitter Out of Don Draper?


On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration began enforcing a ban on flavored-cigarette sales in the U.S. The ban, part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, puts the kibosh on selling, importing, distributing, or manufacturing any flavored cigarette (save for menthol), meaning you can smoke 'em if you got 'em, but getting them is going to be difficult.

Scott Hensley at NPR claims this as a victory for the teenage rite of passage, and cheers the fact that kids will no longer have to choke on nasty clove cigarettes behind the bleachers:

It was a terrible experience, and sitting near somebody smoking them was even worse than the half-dozen numbing puffs we took ourselves.

So we imagine most kids, other than a few wannabe bohemians, are celebrating.

Turns out preventing those teenage moments is the point: by banning cigs that are fruity in flavor, the Feds hope to discourage kids from smoking: understandably, candy-flavored herbal cigarettes can serve as a gateway drug to the real thing.

But never mind the children. Won't someone please think of Don Draper? Draper, as aficionados of the AMC hit Man Men know, smokes Luckys (they're toasted!). Draper smokes of Luckys. But Jon Hamm, the actor who plays Draper, is really smoking herbal cigarettes. Almost all the characters smoke (even the 6-year-old), which gives the show both a literal and figurative nostalgic haze, and the actors all smoke herbals. But now that these types of cigarettes are will the smoking cease at Sterling Cooper? 

In an interview with 's Terry Gross, show creator Matthew Weiner cites an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) code as the reason for the herbals. I checked in with both the federal OSHA and California's Department of Industrial Relations, which handles state OSHA regs; neither could find a specific provision calling for herb cigarettes to be used in place of the just-as-dirty-but-dangerously-addictive tobacco version. (California OSHA does have a provision—Labor Code 6404.5, subsections D1 through D6; D9 through D14, for you civics nerds—that exempts some employees, including actors, from a law banning workplace smoking. That code, however, doesn't specify what can and can't be smoked.)

I'm still trying to suss out if regular cigarettes are forbidden on set due to union rules, or if there's another subsection of OSHA I should be looking at. But unless Weiner and his prop team started buying cases of herbal cigs en masse when the ban was first announced in June, they may be in trouble come 1970, the time period in which Weiner has discussed ending the show. (The current season takes place in 1963.)

Would work without smoking? And would it be better for the public health if the entire ensemble went cold turkey?  Most of the research that's been done on the effect of smoking onscreen deals with movies. The findings are stunning: kids (especially those who don't have other risk factors for smoking, like parents who light up) are much more likely to start smoking every time they see smoking on film. (Whether or not the smokes are herbal don't matter; they all burn the same onscreen.) TV has less of an impact, in part because there's only one tenth of the smoking depicted in movies. In fact, outside of and FX's , it's hard to think of a show where smoking is part of the action. And neither of these shows is particularly family-friendly—both air at 10 p.m. ET, contain profanity, and lots of brooding adult themes.

"I would doubt that they have a youth demographic," says Dr. Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at UC San Francisco and director of Smoke Free Movies, a campaign to require that films with smoking in them garner an R rating. 

Still, all the lighting up on might be bad for adults, too. (I have friends who are trying to quit who can no longer watch.) A recent study in the journal showed that smoking in movies increased the urge for smokers to light up.

If the producers of are in a panic about the ensuing ban, or if they're considering switching to real cigarettes, they're not letting it show. In an e-mail to NEWSWEEK,  a spokesperson from AMC writes, "They are done with production on the third season, so [this is] not something they are dealing with."

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