Smoking laws to the point of stupid
Why didn’t the smoking police let comedian Dave Chappelle smoke at the Winter Garden Theatre?
Chappelle gave three sold out performances and reportedly smoked during one of them. When warned about it he visited Mayor Ford, presumably for a dispensation, to no avail.
The smoking police, a division of Toronto Public Health, reminded the theatre there are no exceptions. It is a curious restriction to put on art in a city where a performer may dance naked on stage, use foul language or advance political causes that may be abhorrent to the majority of the community.
They should be allowed to do all of those things, so when did smoking get to be the special horror?
The episode is indicative of the picky way we control one another.
“Oh,” the smoking police and health system fanatics cry, “But smoking harms the audience and theatre workers.” The performance may also include smoke machines, fireworks and strobe lights, all of which are presented with a warning to the audience; a group of people apparently thought capable of handling such occurrences, but unable to read and process a notice about smoking.
Most people can process it, but Toronto Public Health and City Council often have a dim view of most adult’s ability to make decisions.
In a crowded bar cigarette smoke is unbearable to many people, myself included. But a typical theatre has a high ceiling and hot lights over the performer. Simple physics dictates that the smoke will rise up and away as opposed to out and over the audience. The smoker is hurting no one but himself, so this just about appearances.
For those arguing that smokers cost the healthcare system, try outlawing it all together if that’s what you want. Let’s see how that goes. (Chappelle is American, so he isn’t your problem.)
Denis Leary did a show called “No Cure for Cancer,” smoking heavily while complaining about non-smokers. “We tried to be nice to you non-smokers. You wanted your own sections in the restaurants. We gave you that. But that wasn't enough. Then you wanted the airplanes. We gave you the whole plane! You happy now? I will guarantee you if the plane is going down, the first announcement you're gonna hear is: "This is your Captain speaking. Light 'em up, 'cause we're going down. I got a carton of Camel non-filters, I'll see you on the ground."
So that highly successful show, spawning a television special, a book and a CD, would be banned in Toronto today. Does that make us sophisticated or addicted to zero tolerance to the point of silly?
The policy is reminiscent of Jessie Sansone of Kitchener who was arrested and strip searched because his 4-year old daughter drew a picture of a gun at school. Should we outlaw guns in theatrical performances, especially if children are present? Sorry, if it is going to be about appearances, let’s be consistent. But then there would be no more “Les Misérables” in Toronto.
We could outlaw all weapons, but that would make a Shakespeare play difficult to mount. Perhaps they could do it with ceremonial kirpans, those are legal.
Or we could stop with the zero tolerance, which just produces zero thinking by people who see themselves as smarter and better than the rest of us.