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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.”

Theater 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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