Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Acting up

Many thanks to the lovely correspondent who sent me this amusing vignette demonstrating the creativity of Americans in getting around the smoking ban...
Bars in Minnesota have found a dramatic way to get around the US state's recently introduced smoking ban.

The law grants an exception from the ban to performers in theatrical productions. So the bars have become theatres, and their customers, actors.

Now some bars print bills listing the "cast" of bartenders, and ashtrays become "props". Drinkers don costumes and attempt strange accents.

At the Rock, a heavy-metal bar in Maplewood, owner Brian Bauman explained why his clientele were doing little more than sitting around, smoking and drinking to a soundtrack of deafening music.

"They're playing themselves before 1 October - you know, before there was a smoking ban," he said, according to the Associated Press.

"We call the production, Before the Ban!"

Other bars have taken to the scheme with greater gusto, with customers dressing up in costume, the entrance labelled "stage door" and promising productions such as the Tobacco Monologues.

Up to 100 bars across the state are relying on the legal loophole to allow smokers to continue lighting up.

Now, I like this idea, if only because it cocks a snook at the authorities in the most flamboyant way possible.

Obviously, it wouldn't work in Scotland as the joyless Jocks, no doubt inspired by our Puritanical prime minister (bastard that he is), have banned smoking indoors at all, whether it be a theatre or TV studio (incidentally, does anyone know if that has had any effect on the film and television industry up there?).

I am not actually sure what the laws are in England and Wales, but I assume—from watching Ashes To Ashes if nothing else—that there is some exemption from the smoking ban on the grounds of "artistic licence"?

Anyway, needless to say, the state authorities in Minnesota are unable to tolerate this flouting of their beareaucratic decree.
But the state's health department says they are indeed breaking the law, and has threatened to hit them with fines of up to $10,000 (£5,000).

"The law was enacted to protect Minnesotans from the serious health effects of second-hand smoke," said Sanne Magnan, the Minnesota health commissioner.

OK. Now, would you please produce the evidence for the "serious health effects of second-hand smoke" because there is, as far as I am aware, no report that shows a statistically significant increased health risk from breathing of second hand smoke.

Many of you may argue that it is disgusting and your clothes smell, etc. but that is an aesthetic argument. I could equally argue that we should ban ugly people and boring people from bars because they reduce my drinking pleasure. Where is the evidence of ill health caused by second hand smoke?
She said the "theatrics" would have to end.

But bar owners fear their takings will fall once the ban is reimposed, while others will miss the antics.

"It's turned into the most fun thing I can imagine," said Lisa Anderson, owner of a bar in Hall City.

Ah, well, we can't have people having fun, you know; that's just not on. Or, rather, you can have fun, but it must be state-sanctioned fun. An hour of state-supervised aerobics every day, for instance, or a state-organised fun run (that's like running but with added fun fun fun!)...


knirirr said...

...but that is an aesthetic argument.

Have you heard the urine argument, which is based on similar aesthetic grounds? It's been a great favourite of mine since I first heard it 20 years ago.

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

I am not actually sure what the laws are in England and Wales, but I assume—from watching Ashes To Ashes if nothing else—that there is some exemption from the smoking ban on the grounds of "artistic licence"?

For the moment, smoking has been allowed in stage productions, but only if it's deemed absolutely and utterly necessary to the artistic integrity of the production. However, productions are at the mercy of their audience, who can make a complaint if they 'feel' that the smoking is irrelevant.

Smoking in rehearsals isn't allowed.

I suspect there has to be some sort of risk assessment done, too.

Comedians are also allowed to smoke, if it's integral to their act, which is rather unusual and interesting, I think.

I suggest hiring a venue one evening, piling the stage with smokers all reading from the B3ta Bumper Book of Sick Jokes...

BintyD said...

Argung that second hand smoke doesn't harm makes you look like a douche. Also, you are a total douche for comparing the crap smell of your retarded smoke on other people's clothes to ugly people at a bar, you don't have to go and dry clean your eyes after you see an ugly person fuckwad. You tend to say good things but then you betray your common sense by spouting crap based upon the fact that you smoke...BIASED ANYONE?

Muse upon this comparison:

I'm gonna create a cigarette like instrument which constantly spits out water over a radius of 1 meter. then I'm going to walk into a pub and start a water-cigarette trend which will then take off, soon everyone will be spraying water all over pubs, getting you soaked. Then when you complain about having to wash your clothes I'm gonna say that it's the same as some ugly fucker ruining my drink. you total douche.

Devil's Kitchen said...

"Argung that second hand smoke doesn't harm makes you look like a douche."

Then give a link to the report which shows a statistically significant increased health risk from breathing of second hand smoke.

If it's so obvious, there must be thousands of them -- go and find one. Go on, I dares ya'!


Devil's Kitchen said...

P.S. Yes, I'm biased, but then I have never sought to hide the fact that I smoke. You can therefore take that bias as read.


mitch said...

That is so funny all the busybodys around the world make stupid laws and smart people always drive a bus through them.
pubs just don't smell right anymore and they are always empty..total fuckwittery.

Not a sheep said...

The performance of Noel Coward's The Vortex at Richmond Theatre had one or more cigarettes being smoked on stage for most of the first two acts. This is presumably why the front row of the stalls was kept unocupied...

Shug Niggurath said...

It was always the thin end of the wedge. Now it's the booze they are looking at (along with the morally unacceptable bottled water, the poly bags and the pie n beans).

@ bintyd
Answer me this one. What is a fairer law;

1. A total ban on smoking in public places, even though 23% of the adult population are smokers, or;

2. A requirement for licenced premises to apply (and pay for) a smokers licence, limited to 20% of premises in a given local authority area.


Now the government feels it is their job to interfere in my health for my own good - and apparently for the greater good? What was the last government in Europe who felt that way?

Fuck off.

ali said...

DK, take a look at:


For news and views on the smoking ban experiment.

Neil said...

I recently tried buying 20 fags at an aitport recently and was told the government would only allow packs of 10 to be sold at airports now!

When did that law fucking come in?

Absolute arseholes.The lot of them.