Colorado - Denver theater company to take smoking ban case to U.S. Supreme Court..

January 3, 2009 - The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday, December 14th extinguished hopes that theater actors would be exempted from a statewide smoking ban. By a vote of 6-1 the court said the promotion of public health supersedes the right to free speech.

Denver's Curious Theatre will now petition the U.S. Supreme Court for the right to smoke non-tobacco products in its theatrical productions, artistic director Chip Walton announced Wednesday, December 30th. For three years, Curious has unsuccessfully argued in various courts that it should be exempt from the state's indoor smoking ban, contending that smoking is a form of creative expression that should be protected under free-speech rights. "We have not ever actually smoked tobacco, so it has always been a theatrical substitute," Walton said. "We don't have any desire to smoke real tobacco on stage."

There is no guarantee the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Curious' petition, which Walton expects to be filed in March. Walton admits it's a longshot. He's pinning his hopes on the present divide on the issue among states. Of the 24 states that have indoor smoking bans, he said, half allow exemptions for theatrical performances, while half do not. That even split, he believes, gives the case validity at a national level for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider.

Reference: Denver theater company to take smoking ban case to Supreme Court by John Moore (, Denver Post Theater Critic. 12/30/2009.
Click to enlarge..

From left to right: Uta Hagen, cigarette in hand, Arthur Hill, Beverlee McKinsey and Richard Easton in the London production of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf,' at the Piccadilly Theater in London in the early 1960s. This scene cannot take place as written in Lincoln, Neb.; Colorado; Scotland; or, starting April 2, in Wales. Smoking bans are so strict in these places that actors cannot legally light even herbal cigarettes onstage.



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