The Supreme Court of the United States has declined to hear Curious Theatre Company v. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, meaning that the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling that smoking can be banned from a stage stands. This means that issues could arise in any state where there is a catch-all smoking ban in public areas, without an exemption for theater performance or at least exemptions on a case-by-case basis.
Colorado goes beyond banning smoking tobacco though. The law that was upheld includes cloves and any plant product that is used for smoking. Herbal cigarettes for the stage are thus thrown out. If one wants to perform a play that requires smoking, they’ll have to use a fake cigarette that puffs out talcum powder when you blow into the air with it. The court seems to think that this is a perfectly good alternative for expression.
As one who has used and seen fake cigarettes in a play, they do nothing more than make it seem that the character is smoking a piece of chalk. Let’s say a scene in a play takes place in an old smoky bar. The cigarette evokes the proper atmosphere for the audience, and they can be brought into the author’s imagination. A fake cigarette just makes the audience aware that they are watching a play with some cheesy props.
So, if you find yourself wanting to direct a show in any one of the following states, you may want to hold off on that production of Glengarry Glen Ross because you might run into some problems:
Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Kansas (effective July 1, 2010), Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin (effective July 5, 2010)
You should be okay in Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and, on a case-by-case basis, New York.
Let’s just hope that the states that have the ban without the exemption are fans of good theater.