I expect that most of my Denver-area readers caught Denver theatre critic John Moore's recent column, in which he looks at the ongoing battle between theatre companies and the state smoking ban. However, I know from some of your comments here and the personal messages that you have sent to me that many of you who drop by this page are not in Colorado, so I thought I'd bring it to your attention.
Now, I'm not a smoker myself. I don't particularly care to be around smoke, and I have enjoyed the freer air quality in and around town even if the ban itself triggers my libertarian gag reflex.
I also think that actors and especially singers who smoke are basically OUT OF THEIR FREAKIN' MINDS.
However, none of that has anything to do with these theatre companies who are simply championing the right of artists to portray smoking on-stage as part of character development and storytelling.
John Moore has detailed the argument quite eloquently, in my opinion, so I will direct you to read his column here.
I would like to bring particular attention to one paragraph in John's column that gives you some idea of just what theatres in Colorado are up against:
"[Assistant Attorney General Lisa Bremmer] Freimann actually predicted a performance exception for smoking would inevitably lead to exceptions for underage drinking and firing real guns. Among the many flaws in her logic: If a play calls for underage (or of-age) drinking, the actor drinks colored water. If a character fires a gun, it fires blanks. And if a character lights up, it's not a real cigarette."
Theatres: if your city, state, province, country or district is considering a smoking ban, make sure that you know what that means for you. What provision is provided for artistic expression on-stage? Can you smoke non-carcinogenic tobacco alternatives? In Colorado, at the moment, you can't.
When it comes to legislating smoking, I'll admit I'm torn. I think Wayne Dyer put it best when he said (I'm paraphrasing) that your right to flail your arms around wildly ends where my right to keep my nose in its current shape begins. Second-hand smoke stinks in every sense of the word, and, even the non-carcinogenic alternatives have their drawbacks. I have a friend who is allergic.
However, I know people who are allergic to a lot of the fog machines in use in theatres. People with asthma and emphysema have often claimed to have issues with even water-based foggers. Not being a doctor, I'm inclined to take those claims at face value.
We've learned to work around these things: minimizing the effects where possible, providing warnings, directing audience members with these issues to sit in less-exposed areas of the theatre, etc.
But an outright ban?
Run through your list of favorite plays. How many include smoking onstage? How many could be performed without it? Probably quite a few, sure, but how many absolutely could not? Imagine those plays never being performed live again.
Scary, isn't it?