Peggy’s Smokin’ — Or Is She?

 Posted by on November 21, 2012 at 10:03 am  Mad Men, Season 5
Nov 212012

In The Phantom, Ted Chaough tosses Peggy an unmarked carton of cigarettes — said to be Philip Morris’s new “women’s cigarette” — and asks her to sample them and give them a name. Peggy protests that she doesn’t smoke (“not really”), but Ted has seen her taking a nervous puff before he interviewed her in The Other Woman and calls her on her bluff. This product will, of course, become Virginia Slims in 1968, with its “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” second-wave feminist slogan that even people who weren’t around in 1968 know well today. Does that mean Peggy’s going to be the one who launches that iconic campaign?

I don’t think so.

Yes, Don was shown pitching “It’s Toasted” to Lucky Strike in the pilot, 43 years after the company used it in real life. But how many people knew about “It’s Toasted” without being hard-core advertising buffs? As it happens, the only reason CGC was given the product to review in the first place is because Leo Burnett (which represented Philip Morris) thought it wouldn’t be a big seller — but in real life, Burnett’s agency did wind up being the agency of record for Virginia Slims, and would remain so for decades.

Besides, it’s true that Peggy doesn’t “really” smoke. During the course of the series, she was shown with a cigarette once in S1 (faking), once in S2 (filching), never in S3, twice in S4 (once at home, probably from a pack of Luckies she was given for free, and once bumming from Joan), and four times in S5 (bumming from Stan and then Joan, then the interview scene, then trying out the new cigarette in the movie theatre in The Phantom). (Yes, I am weird, I keep track of that stuff.) She doesn’t smoke like the other smokers on the show do, as an addiction she must feed 10 or 20 (or 40! or more!) times a day. (Megan was seen smoking once in The Rejected, but not at all since then; presumably she has quit and only uses wax vapor pens.) Peggy seems to be one of those rare chippers who can bum the occasional butt, but doesn’t get hooked. Does smoking cigarettes really represent freedom to her? After all, her mother smokes, and Ma Olson is about as unliberated as they come.

Maybe she can fake it; after all, she probably doesn’t use most of the products she’s written copy for. (Or, as she memorably puts it to Roger in Dark Shadows, when protesting that she doesn’t have to be Jewish to write copy for Manischewitz, “I’m not an airplane either.”) But wouldn’t it be a lot more entertaining, anyway, to see Peggy swing for it and miss? I can just picture it now: Peggy names the new cigarette “Independence,” with an ad featuring a laughing model in a star-spangled bodysuit toying with a long thin ciggie and straddling a rocket about to blast off for the heavens, and then the slogan: “The pleasure is all yours.” A bit too suggestive, Peg, sorry. Maybe we’ll be ready for that one in about 1986.


  11 Responses to “Peggy’s Smokin’ — Or Is She?”

  1. The WedMD article is interesting, but is focused on a group of smokers which does not include Peggy.

    The article never get around to defining “smokers” or “chippers” (as a subset of smokers). It seems, however, that to be a “smoker” one has to smoke daily:

    “only 5%-15% of smokers have five or fewer cigarettes a day”

    The article is really just a warning, not intended to actually shine the light of reality on those like Peggy. She does not smoke daily – thus she not a “smoker” as they use the term. She’s more like my wife, who buys a pack now and then and makes it last – or smokes it up when she’s on a writing jag.

    In the eighty’s WF Buckley once noted that addiction rates for most drugs, defined as the fraction of people that take a drug once, who eventually become addicted, is around 10%. The notable exception is tobacco – with a rate of 30%.

    (WFB was one of the of 30%,)

    Matt Knouff on SoYouWanna cites the American Society of Addiction Medicine:

    “approximately one out of every three people who smoke a cigarette for the first time will eventually become addicted.” – which supports the WFB citation.

    When you expand the focus to all who have any use of tobacco, Peggy turns out to be in the majority – the two-thirds who do not become addicted.

    • I would be interested to know if the addiction rate for cigarettes goes up dramatically for people who have had a second cigarette. Because that two-thirds number includes people like me who tried it once and were so grossed out they never wanted to try it again. But presumably people who have a second cigarette must not have found their first experience a sufficient deterrent. (My reaction was like Pete’s in Wee Small Hours.)

      • “I would be interested to know if the addiction rate for cigarettes goes up dramatically for people who have had a second cigarette.”

        Tobacco use is so political in our country that the “right answers” drown out the diversity of actual use. Televison and the Press in all its forms distort common perceptions of tobacco use. I suspect that any of us could do an informal survey to demonstrate this. In my own family a spectrum of use is apparent.

        My father, who died at 53 when I was 11, was not a smoker to my knowledge (perhaps a former smoker?).

        My mother dallied with cigarettes after dad died – but that habit never caught on.

        My sister smoked in her 20’s but I doubt (could confirm) that she ever got her use up to a pack per day.

        My brother, so far as I know, never touched the stuff.

        My daughter makes a pack last for a week or more.

        My wife smokes occasionally – generally she smokes when she writes or socially with her mother. At one time she smoked about a 1/2-pack per day.

        Her mother is the “addict” – on and off for many years – mostly on. She was “quit” for about 10 years (in combination at first with Prozac) but picked it up again a year ago – and has since lost weight – she says 35 pounds. She says she drinks less since she started smoking again and her liver tests are again normal. To my mind it’s not so clear that 10-20 cigarettes/day is worse (at age 73) that being overweight or drinking more. The weight loss makes it easier to get around, climb stairs, etc. Everything involves tradeoffs.

        My father-in-law quit in the 1970’s – used to smoke ten ‘1886’ grocery store cigars per day. He says he inhaled (!) Said quitting was no problem at all.

        I worked through a couple packs when I was 19. I now enjoy cigars – maybe a box in a year – and smoked a cigarette with my mother-in-law the other day just to be sociable.

        It’s clear that many, perhaps more than half, daily smokers would like to quit but can’t. They are a minority. Far more are former, or occasional smokers.

        • Probably genetics has a lot to do with the addiction factor. My dad was able to toss his pack away with ease 46 years ago and never had the urge to smoke ever again, but my mother pretty much needed a nicotine wetsuit in order to quit after 40 years of heavy smoking. The smokers on my mother’s side tended to fit her pattern, the ones on my dad’s side followed his.

          Also, I’m not convinced that smoking is better for you than being fat; getting up multiple flights of stairs is no picnic if you have even the very beginnings of COPD, which my mom has despite not having smoked for 14 years (it would be a lot more advanced if she still smoked). And I didn’t have an easier time climbing stairs or hills when I weighed 100 pounds less, probably due to my being a Pete Campbell-esque borderline asthmatic. (Also, given that my weight gain is linked directly to my decades-long treatment for major depression, which would have killed me a long time ago if left untreated…yeah. Talk about your trade-offs.)

          On the other hand, if your alternative to smoking is going on George Jones/season 4 Don Draper alcoholic benders that include getting behind the wheel completely trashed, that’s probably understandable; most people who do that don’t have as many lives as George and Don.

          • I suspect that depression has afflicted mankind for millennia that predate the discovery of fermentation and tobacco.

            Early on my mother-in-law freely disclosed her opinion that Prozac was essential to her success in quitting – suggests that she was self-treating depression with cigarettes. Interesting then, that she denied only a year later that Prozac had anything to do with quitting tobacco.

            My wife loved Phen-Fen – she says that it lifted a low-grade depression for her. A friend’s wife hated it – said it “flipped her out”.

            I’ll bet that an “addiction gene” (more likely a set of them) will be discovered. PJ O’Rourke, who has admitted in print to youthful enjoyment of a variety of pleasure drugs, once wrote that he easily would become ill if he over-indulged. This rang a loud bell for me because it mirrors my own experience – plenty of youthful experimentation – the occasional sickness from over-exuberance – and no problem walking away from all of it.

            The huge variety of experiences with pleasure drugs is so plain that the usual scolding in the press about them is tiresome – and for the most part utterly discreditable.

  2. It’s funny, when Ted first said that to Peggy (She said, “I don’t smoke,” and he said, “Yes you do,”), I thought he was saying that she’d start becoming more of a smoker. You know, “You’re serious about this job, you’ll do what it takes—including smoking!”

    When I thought about it more, I realized he probably meant that she was just protesting too much about being a smoker. As Meower says above, calling her on her bluff. I agree with Meowser thought that Peggy isn’t really a smoker–not a regular smoker, anyway. I think she smokes more at times of stress, excitement, or restlessness (or at times, a mix of all three).

    At any rate, I’m definitely interested to see what she comes with, as far as campaigns go!

    • I still tgink peggy’s “Wheel” pitch will be at the season 7 finale for Crocker Bank “We only just begun” the end titles can use the 1971 Carpenter’s version.

    • She does smoke weed in several episodes.

  3. Hi,

    I always wondered why Ted replied, “Yes you do” to Peggy’s line that she doesn’t smoke. You know that every line in this show has a reason, and at the time I thought it was Ted asserting his dominance and also maybe a mind-set about advertising in a way. Such as, “don’t even think of yourself as a non-smoker, you are assigned an account for women’s cigarettes, you are going to sell women’s cigarettes, therefore you will eat, sleep and breathe the mind-set and life of a woman who smokes”.

    But you’re right, it could have been a breezy statement that just implied, “Yes, I’ve seen you smoke so don’t play coy and say you don’t.”

    I came up with a theory the other day while watching the DVD commentary on “The Other Woman”. It was implied that Elisabeth Moss knows a bit about the future of the storylines, and when asked if she knew how the series would end in another interview she replied, “no comment.” The ‘no comment’ could mean I know, but don’t even try to ask, or it could simply mean she has no clue. But let’s say it’s a yes. She said Matt Weiner called her during episode 10 tell her Peggy would be leaving SCDP and to essentially not worry, it wouldn’t mean she’s off the show. So, EM had no clue Peggy ever intended on leaving SCDP. Therefore, if she knew of future storylines, they must have had Peggy at SCDP in the future because EM wouldn’t have been shocked about her leaving, since it would have all fed into the end of the show.

    Therefore, my grand prediction based on pretty much total speculation is that Peggy does in fact end back up at SCDP.

  4. it’d be awful if don did it. I really like the idea of the show showing that don draper is not the greatest ad man, and the times are changing. In many ways the show is about Peggy’s career growth, not don. Having him get the big scoop seems like something from a cheesier show, like Downton!

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