The Lee Strasberg Institute for Tobacco Studies


Smokers in the Gopher State are coming up with some clever ways of circumventing Minnesota's smoking ban. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports on a pomo experiment in group theater sweeping the Twin City bar scene:

Dozens of bars are expected to stage "theater nights" this weekend in which patrons are dubbed actors. The [anti-smoking] law, which went into effect in October, permits performers to smoke during a theatrical production. "Two weeks ago, we had one bar doing this," said Mark Benjamin, a criminal defense attorney who launched the theater-night idea. He estimates 50 to 100 bars could be on tap for theater nights this weekend based on phone calls, e-mails and requests for the how-to-stage-a-theater-night packet that he's devised. And many bar owners are passing on the information quickly among themselves without getting in contact with him.


Lisa Anderson, owner of Mike's Uptown bar in Hill City, said that last Saturday she staged a "theater night" and packed in four times the usual crowd that has come in since the smoking ban took effect. Anderson said she has been helping other bar owners who want to put on their own tobacco productions. "I'm going to continue to do this," she said. "It increased my business."

As Jacob Sullum pointed out recently, the town of Belmont, California, which allows special dispensation for theatrical productions "where smoking is an integral part of the story."

Back in 1998, Sullum joined star Drew Carey to protest California's smoking ban by staging a "smoke-in" in Los Angeles.