AFP is reporting that the British government may allow film, television, and stage actors to… brace yourself… smoke in public! Oh…but only if smoking “is integral to the plot or storyline” of the performance at issue. Announcing this little dollop of (potential) legislative grace, a Department of Health spokesman explained:
The government is considering providing a specific exemption from smoke-free legislation to ensure that smoking can take place on stage during live theatrical performances, or during film and television recording, where smoking is integral to the plot or storyline. … We will be consulting with the theatre industry on what they consider integral to the plot.
That should be interesting.
This is, of course, great news for the American film industry. Films with “non-integral” smoking will now have to be produced outside of Britain — most likely in America. Perhaps the British smoking ban is to the American film industry what Sarbanes-Oxley is to foreign stock markets. (See here, here, and here.)
The fact that a western liberal democracy is having to create special exceptions to ensure that historical figures like Winston Churchill can be accurately depicted in film and theatrical productions is a testament to how out of hand these sweeping smoking bans have gotten. Perhaps we should file this one in the “life imitates art” category: One of the funnier moments in the delightful film Thank You for Smoking (discussed here) occurs when a Tobacco-hating senator tries to order Hollywood to doctor old movie star portraits so that the actors’ cigarettes are replaced with innocuous items like candy canes and chopsticks. Is it really so incredible?
For more on why government-imposed smoking bans are a bad idea, see The Case Against Smoking Bans.