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.