The thriller – based on a real-life serial killer – shows most of the main characters incessantly puffing away. Anti-smoking charity Ash rapped its makers. Chief executive Deborah Arnott said: “Watching The Serpent won’t turn someone into a serial killer but it will encourage them to smoke.”
She was backed by one viewer, who said the show made cigs seem “sexy and cool”.
day night drama tells the story of serial killer Charles Sobhraj, played by Tahar Rahim, 39, and his girlfriend Marie-Andree Leclerc – Doctor Who star Jenna Coleman.
Nadine Gires (Mathilde Warnier) befriends the couple.
And Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg – Vera actor Billy Howle, 31 –investigates the murders of Western backpackers in Bangkok. The four regularly sparked up in Sunday’s first episode. Director Tom Shankland said his first vision of Marie-Andree was “a cool, enigmatic figure who just did a lot of smoking on the balcony”, before Jenna added depth.
But Ash boss Deborah said: “There’s a proven causal link between watching people smoke onscreen and taking up smoking yourself. Whether the smokers are heroes or villains, cool or not, does not make any difference.”
And a viewer commented: “For anyone watching The Serpent and trying to give up smoking – good luck!”
Another advised quitters not to tune in because “someone’s sparking up every 30 seconds”.
Meanwhile, Jenna’s French accent was rapped by others after she admitted grasping it was tough.