Smoking ban won’t snuff roles

Onstage performers can still light up

Come July 1, smokers in England won’t be lighting up in enclosed public places, thanks to a new law. But showbiz won’t be kicked in the ash.

According to the new guidelines, “Where the artistic integrity of a performance makes it appropriate for a person who is taking part in that performance to smoke, the part of the premises in which that person performs will not be required to be smokefree for the performer only during the performance.”

Stressed thesps looking for a calming ciggie at rehearsals, however, can forget about it — “This exemption does not apply to rehearsals,” notes the guidelines. 

The performer’s exemption, though, will avoid a repeat of last year’s showdown at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where English actor Mel Smith, playing Winston Churchill onstage, threatened to flout Scotland’s more Draconian anti-smoking legislation by firing up a fat Romeo & Julietta cigar.

Smith gave in at the last minute, appeasing Scottish health officials who had pledged to revoke the venue’s entertainment license had he lit up.

So what will become of unrepentant smokers in the biz after the ban goes into effect?

Post July 1, bizzers accustomed to smoking in private clubs like the Groucho Club and hip hotels such as the Soho Hotel, will be driven outside.

Another potential destination for bizzers gasping for a nicotine hit are London’s cigar bars, such as the Casa del Habano on Soho’s Wardour Street. The Casa — already a fave with Jonathan Ross, Pierce Brosnan and Jeff Bridges according to general manager David Best — has modified its layout so that the liquor bar is separate from the cigar bar, allowing customers to continue to “sample” stogies.

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