How common was smoking in first half of the 20th century?

When watching movies that were made in first half of the 20th century, one can see many people are smoking (cigarettes), but it is not they smoke all time long. I refer to the movies, because they show the era’s fashion and habits.

Cigarettes are shown, because they were part of lives, but they are not much common, that everybody smokes every time. They play important role eg. no-one could imagine Humphrey Bogart or James Bond without it in some scenes, but they are not existing the entire movie.

In “Mad Men” series, which was made a few years ago, but action takes place in 1950s., the people smoke everywhere. We see a pregnant woman smoking, even a gynecologist smoking by his patient. I understand that people did not know everything about health problems caused by smoking, but I am not sure if this is not exaggerated, as compared to movies from that time. I’ve spoken to some older people and they say it was not true, but it could have been in the USA. From remembrances they say, yes everybody did smoke, it was common to smoke at home by children, at office, but it was not allowable (both by law or habits) in other public places hospital, cinema etc.

Do “Mad Men” show truth about people habits and are intended to shock the viewer how common it was? The movies from the era could have been somehow censored or directors did not show cigarettes because it didn’t add anything to action or they had theater habits, where it was forbidden to smoke on stage because of fire-security reasons.

Or maybe the authors of “Mad Men” wanted to show something shocking, but unfortunately they exaggerated it?

PS. A loosely related blog post

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