Hi-Ho Silver away..

Given that the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill being discussed in the Assembly today included clauses to allow smoking to take place “in performances, (for example on stage or in the making of a film or a TV programme), so as to permit smoking by such performers if artistic integrity so requires.”[emphasis added] – as the explanatory notes put it, the clause would “replicate provisions contained in the Health Act 2006″[added link] – there had been an expectation that it would happen. But the Health Minister Micheal McGimpsey has told the Assembly he has decided otherwise. It’s worthwhile considering what the theatre critic Health Minister had to say about his decision. From the PA report

Mr McGimpsey told MLAs: “Smoke-free legislation was introduced with the primary aim of protecting the public health. I sympathise with performers who wish to retain the artistic integrity of their productions.

“However, I have also had to take account of the concerns made to me about health professionals and others.

“In my view, actual smoking is not essential to protect the integrity of a particular performance.

“Even if this were the case, I do not believe it outweighs the public health argument. I am therefore minded to bring forward an amendment to the Bill withdrawing Clause 15.”

In his speech the Minister also referred to the artistic integrity of the Lone Ranger, who “could rule the west without firing real bullets.”

Looking closely at the reasons given, and ignoring the crass analogy used, I’m not at all convinced that this particular argument is sound. Firstly the artistic integrity question. Michael McGimpsey actually rejects it.. and then, “Even if this were the case”, claims that it is irrelevant.

That’s probably because he isn’t in any position to assess the artistic integrity question. But of the public health argument. What is the public health concerns about a performer on a stage, or in the making of a film or a TV programme? How does cigarette smoke in those cases constitute a public health risk?

I don’t think it does. And I don’t believe that the public health risk is the actual reasoning behind this decision.

It is a question of artistic integrity, and the artistic freedom of how a playwright, scriptwriter, and performer portrays smoking – they won’t. Not just in performances already written, they’ll be rewitten, but in plays, films and TV shows yet to be commissioned – because without the smoke it just wouldn’t have any integrity to an audience.

Adds Interesting article, from the point of view of a non-smoking actor, about smoking on stage and screen at the Straight Dope.