Colorado Appeals Court: Actors Can't Smoke on Stage

In what is believed to be the first such ruling in the country, the Colorado Court of Appeals has held that no smoking laws apply to actors on stage.

A Colorado appeals court ruled on Thursday that smoking by an actor on stage, while possibly important to character and theatrical message, is still banned by the state’s two-year-old indoor smoking law.

“The smoking ban was not intended to prevent actors from expressing emotion, setting a mood, illustrating a character trait, emphasizing a plot twist or making a political statement,” a three-member panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals said in its unanimous ruling, upholding a lower court’s verdict.

But, the court added, “smoking, by itself, is not sufficiently expressive to qualify for First Amendment protection.”

My reaction below:

Theatre folks are striking back, creatively:

One of the theaters challenging the ban, the Curious Theater Company in Denver, has referred to the law on stage for comedic effect. In a world premiere production in late 2006 of temp Odyssey by Dan Dietz, a character repeatedly put a cigarette into his mouth, then wagged a finger at the audience and grabbed for a jar of dry ice marked “simulated smoke,” and puffed the swirling carbon dioxide vapors instead.

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  • Display: Sort:
    It's only a nanny state (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 01:14:39 PM EST
    when you're protecting people from themselves.  In this case, it's about protecting people from others harmful behaviors.

    Disagree; the harm is dubious, (none / 0) (#19)
    by magnetics on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 03:45:27 PM EST
    and the passive smoke business is greatly overexaggerated.  Stanton Glantz gets written up in the NYT for claiming the smoking ban in bars in Helena Montana lowered emergency room emissions for heart attacks by 50% in a year or six months.  Problem was, what was unstated was that he's talking about a difference between 10 admissions and 5, over a year.  This is well within random variation.

    When the stats 'prove' that passive smoke is more dangerous than the smoke a smoker inhales, Glantz argues that passive smoke is several times more toxic -- but with no chemical evidence.


    But car exhaust... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Dadler on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 12:23:39 PM EST
    ...will still surround and injure you daily.

    Our nonsense will never cease.

    Lock yourself in a garage with twenty smokers for a half hour and you'll come out with a headache and maybe a cough.  Do the same with a running car...and you're DEAD.

    We are a powerfully stupid people too often.

    i believe the concern is (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by cpinva on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 12:33:06 PM EST
    the deleterious effects of second-hand bad acting.

    Yeah, that's pretty toxic (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Dadler on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 12:40:52 PM EST
    Contagious too.

    Actually, for asthmatics like myself (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by shoephone on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 01:17:06 PM EST
    being stuck in a garage with twenty smokers for 30 minutes would get me sent to the emergency room.

    But this court ruling is absurd. One cigarette on stage for 5 minutes is not going to have a dangerous effect on audience.


    yup, me too and muffin, my kitty! (none / 0) (#15)
    by hellothere on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 01:44:18 PM EST
    i just came from walgreen's picking up prescriptions for both of us. the lady at the counter joshed about both of us having it.

    i worry that there will be a backlash to "overdo". i of course agree second hand smoke must be controlled.no argument there. but some things are just silly! when i see what is ignored on the roads and global warming, my reaction this is, duh! take a look out on the road judge.


    Your point is taken (none / 0) (#17)
    by Dadler on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 01:53:19 PM EST
    Of course, for some people with some condition, second hand smoke can be a problem.  Hell, for epileptics, moving images can be a problem.

    No TV for anyone then. n/t (none / 0) (#21)
    by inclusiveheart on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 04:26:21 PM EST
    Unintentionally ironic? (none / 0) (#13)
    by leonid on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 01:32:39 PM EST
    We are a powerfully stupid people too often.

    The mechanism by which car exhaust kills is unrelated to the mechanism by which tobacco smoke causes cancer. I'm also fairly confident that there are regulations concerning ventilation in places where cars are likely to be running indoors, or do you oppose those regulations as well? Comparing apples to oranges is not a particularly smart form of reasoning.

    Apples and oragnes are both fruit (none / 0) (#16)
    by Dadler on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 01:51:18 PM EST
    Car exhaust kills, it is carbon monoxide.  And we all impose it on others -- all of us. Tobacco is used by the government to give us the ILLUSION of protection, when many things, like cars, which are considered economically indispensible, are allowed to foul the air fairly freely, because we supposedly can't do WITHOUT that pollution.  Also, in second hand smoke studies, explain how they exclude the effects of chemicals NOT in cigarettes that people are exposed to every day?  Yes, the tobacco industry isn't exactly pleasant, but there are many other industries that are much worse and infinitely less regulated.

    After having done my homework on the fat/cholesterol scam being perpretrated by medicine, and the largely untested drugs being given to people to treat this nonexistent epidemic.  Second-hand smoke, for the most part, is an equally spurious problem.  Of course, for some people, a small number I'd guess, it is a problem.  But not one that needs to censor art in the name of "safety".  Hell, yesterday I had trouble finding a bag of marbles for my son.  They toy store manager said stuff like that is considered a hazard now.

    What isn't a hazard to a living creature?


    Did ya'll see that story about (none / 0) (#4)
    by Joan in VA on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 12:41:46 PM EST
    the bar where the patrons "perform" so they can smoke? Don't remember what state it was.

    We have dinner theatre (none / 0) (#5)
    by waldenpond on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 12:53:46 PM EST
    here.  That was creative.  I would never have thought of that.

    It's Minnesota (none / 0) (#7)
    by akaEloise on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 01:07:55 PM EST
    and here is a story.  Minnesota had separate smoking and non-smoking areas in restaurants decades before anywhere else, but the total ban is fairly new, especially as it applies to bars.  

    Thanks for the link! (none / 0) (#11)
    by Joan in VA on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 01:23:20 PM EST
    That would be Minnesota (none / 0) (#14)
    by Coral Gables on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 01:37:21 PM EST
    The patrons become part of the "performance" so everyone is permitted to smoke in the bar. Theater performance smoking is legal in Minnesota and bars were looking for a loophole. At the bars they became known as "theater night".

    Idiots (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 12:58:32 PM EST
    Faking stuff is the norm for actors, postproduction. Film is all about illusion anyway so why should smoking be any different?

    Many states, including New York, have laws that ban indoor smoking of tobacco, including live on stage. But the key issue in most cases is the word tobacco -- herbal cigarettes in many places can be used without violation.

    But not in Colorado:

    Colorado's law, the court said, is specific: smoking is smoking, and it does not matter what is being burned.

    Now that is really stupid.

    No Nanny State? (none / 0) (#8)
    by leonid on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 01:11:06 PM EST
    If your reaction is to indulge in name calling you might want to rethink your opinion.

    I think the ban is silly (none / 0) (#12)
    by badger on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 01:24:54 PM EST
    in terms of anti-smoking laws, but I'm actually surprised actors were every allowed to light cigarettes on stage.

    A professional quality stage is built like a large fireplace - you have the opening in the front (the proscenium arch) and then basically a large chimney directly above the stage where the lights are hung and where all of the scenery you "fly" disappears when it's not in use. A lot of scenery (flats, backdrops) is both flammable and nowadays made from styrofoam sheets (like insulation) which emits cyanide when it burns. And the stages I've been around have a constant draft in through the arch and up the "chimney", especially when stage lighting is in use.

    You drop the "fire curtain" across the stage opening when the stage isn't in use for a reason.

    I'd be more concerned about fire safety than second-hand smoke.

    And the number (none / 0) (#18)
    by gyrfalcon on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 03:29:57 PM EST
    of serious fires started in theaters by an actor bobbling a cigarette since the discovery of tobacco is?

    If we're that concerned about theater fires, we'd have banned stage lighting decades ago.


    I have no idea (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by badger on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 04:08:35 PM EST
    but a lot of people died in theater fires (for example, over 600 in the Iroquois Theater fire, around 275 in the Brooklyn Theater fire) before we learned to take sensible precautions in an environment that's prone to deadly fires.

    I wouldn't smoke on a stage any more than I'd smoke in the woods around my house in summer (which is illegal too). And it's not like it's surprising that careless smokers start a lot of fires every year.


    But theater fires have typically (none / 0) (#22)
    by inclusiveheart on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 04:34:55 PM EST
    started because of problems with lighting - candles - gas lamps - and electric.

    No lighting allowed maybe?


    Yeah (none / 0) (#23)
    by badger on Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 06:14:42 PM EST
    the Iroquois Fire was started by lighting (electric I think) too close to a curtain, and stage conditions have been changed to prevent that and lighting is done more safely now, curtains are fire retardant (but not fireproof), etc.

    I suppose the corollary would be if you're going to have someone light up during a performance you can institute some precautions/safeguards. But it still isn't something I'd want to see done casually or without recognition that in that environment there are hazards, just because I think there are serious risks involved even if the probability of occurrance is low.

    Which is the opposite of what the court considered in the case mentioned.