Ever since the American Cancer Society expressed concern about Miami Vice’s Don Johnson puffing away, smoking on TV has been only for bad guys. But now cigarettes seem to be making a prime-time comeback. On CBS’ Hearts Afire, senatorial press secretary Markie Post chain-smokes around her sidekick, health-conscious aide John Ritter. Brassy sportswriter Suzie Plakson is rarely without a cigarette on CBS’ Love & War. And on NBC, Kirstie Alley started Cheers’ season by flicking a butt into a trash can. Even Fox’s high school senior Shannen Doherty has picked up the habit on Beverly Hills, 90210.
All this smoking hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Entertainment Industries Council, which works with Hollywood on drug, alcohol, and tobacco issues. ”Smoking isn’t considered a positive trait,” says council vice president Larry Deutchman. He adds that Hearts’ producers are phasing it out.
CBS’ Jonathan Hogan confirms: ”Markie’s character has said that she’s smoked her last cigarette,” he says, explaining that her puffing was used to make her a foil for Ritter. Similarly, Love & War’s script will soon force Meg to quit, apparently to provide endless opportunities for one-liners about addiction. Cheers publicist Bob Meyer adds that Rebecca’s smoking was ”really a plot convenience” — her tossed cig wound up burning down Sam’s bar. And 90210 publicist Nancy Carr says there are no plans to have Brenda smoking in the future. The real trend at work here: kicking the habit.