‘Peaky Blinders’: Here’s What’s in Those Fake Cigarettes the Actors Smoke on the Show

When viewers picture the Peaky Blinders, they likely conjure images of three-piece suits, flat-billed caps, and billowing clouds of cigarette smoke. The Peaky Blinders are constantly smoking throughout the series. It’s a sign of the times, as smoking was extremely commonplace in the 1920s and 1930s. Luckily, the actors didn’t have to smoke real cigarettes while filming the series.

Michael Gray smoking a cigarette in Peaky Blinders Season 6. Michael stands near a boat with two men behind him.
Finn Cole as Michael Gray in ‘Peaky Blinders’ | Matt Squire/Netflix

TV shows like ‘Peaky Blinders’ and ‘Mad Men’ use fake cigarettes

While cigarette smoking is still commonplace, the negative effects of smoking have been common knowledge for decades. According to the National Library of Medicine, “In 1965, Congress required all cigarette packages distributed in the United States to carry a health warning.” Smoking in public places is becoming less and less acceptable in the modern world.

However, for TV shows like Peaky Blinders which are set before such restrictions, it makes sense to see the characters puffing away almost constantly. Thankfully the actors don’t smoke cigarettes with nicotine. In a TikTok video, @davidwma explained what actors use instead. “Most of the time when you see actors smoking onscreen we use something called prop cigarettes,” he stated.

https://twitter.com/ThePeakyBlinder/status/1536022583702962178

“They’re herbal cigarettes that are tobacco, nicotine, and additive-free. They also look quite real in an actor’s fingers. Jon Hamm went through packs of these while filming nine seasons of Mad Men.” The TikTok user then cut one of the cigarettes open, showing the herbs like “rose petals, clover, and tea leaves” inside. He also added that sometimes smoke is added using CGI.

Here’s what’s in the fake cigarettes used in ‘Peaky Blinders’

While these props are less dangerous than real cigarettes, they still aren’t exactly good for you. In fact, the cast of Peaky Blinders wasn’t a fan of the props. According to Distracify, Polly actor Helen McCrory reportedly once told The Mirror that they use herbal cigarettes with no nicotine that taste “horrible.” She added, “They’re the same type they smoke in theatre productions.”

“I used to go to plays for years and wonder why they had a [cannabis joint] on the go during a play and how they could remember their lines,” McCrory added. “It smells, to a layman like me, like someone is smoking cannabis. It’s just a bit funny and not like tobacco.”

Do TV shows influence people to smoke?

Apart from having an unpleasant taste and smell, smoking on TV can promote nicotine use to its viewers. According to the Truth Initiative, research finds that “Seventy-nine percent of the shows most popular with young people, aged 15-24 years, depict smoking prominently.”

Additionally, according to the Surgeon General, “People with more exposure to tobacco in movies are twice as likely to begin smoking compared with those with less exposure.” With this in mind, it’s important to remember that the smoking shown in Peaky Blinders is from an era before the full dangers of smoking were widely known.

All episodes of Peaky Blinders are currently streaming on Netflix.

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