- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2013

Minnesota currently allows actors to light up onstage during a theatrical performance, but one state senator says even that is too harmful to an unwitting audience.

“It’s so much easier to use e-cigarettes or to use something else that doesn’t have all the carcinogens in it,” said Barb Goodwin, a Columbia Heights Democrat.

Miss Goodwin said she proposed the legislation on behalf her constituent, Joan Gilmore, a frequent theatergoer who is allergic to cigarette smoke. The senator also worries that actors smoking onstage glamorizes tobacco for children.

Minnesota, along with 10 other states and the District of Columbia, permits actors to smoke onstage.

Theater directors worry about the effect a ban would have on the authenticity of onstage acting.

“If you’re going to be authentic to that aspect of a play, it’s essential,” said Bain Boehlke, artistic director at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis. “Just the smell of the cigarette smoke is part of the world of the play.”

Mr. Boehlke said even the clink of an electronic cigarette might pull the audience out of the action of the play.

Larry Redmond, a lobbyist for Minnesotan Citizens for the Arts, told the Associated Press his organization will fight against any change, calling it a matter of artistic freedom.

Miss Goodwin said the change would have very little effect on a play.

“What’s going to happen if they don’t smoke in that production?” she asked. “Really, how is that going to have a good bearing on the way people feel about the play?”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.