Other Voices: Plays smoking scene wasnt necessary

Today, the Dayton Daily News ran my fellow protester’s piece on our protest- of course they ran it on a Monday- one of their low circulation days.

It’s already got one of their “Most Popular” links attached- and while this issue is important- what’s become more important is our State Government’s lame “we’re not enforcing the law for 6 months stance” on issue 5.

Would they do that with the minimum wage law? No.

Would they do that with the drinking age? Or a speed limit? No.

It’s quite simple- more than 10 e-mails about a drinking establishment- you send a police officer in to verify that their are ashtrays or smoking inside- and, a one week closure with suspension of your liquor license- starting today.

In fact, there is a hearing in Columbus today- on the smoking ban enforcementfrom 10 am to 3 pm at the Ohio Department of Health, 246 N. High St. Eighth Floor Conference room- unfortunately, I have to work and there is no listed way to provide input over the Internet.

Pam’s piece is a step in the right direction- as were many of the speak up comments. At some point the State needs to wake up and realize that laws only mean something if enforced.

Other Voices: Plays smoking scene wasnt necessary
Other Voices: Plays smoking scene wasnt necessary

By Pam Strohmeyer

Monday, December 18, 2006

In October, the Human Race Theatres production of Moonlight & Magnolias included a totally gratuitous smoking scene at the end. It added nothing to the play, and it wasnt important to the plot. All it did was glamorize smoking.

When asked why — since many people are sensitive to smoke — Human Race Theatre Company artistic director Marsha Hanna defended the scene on the grounds of artistic freedom. Several alternatives were suggested that would have accomplished the same dramatic effect. She rejected all of them, possibly because she has a history of smoking herself.
I was one of a small group of people, organized by David Esrati, who took advantage of the timeliness of the production of Moonlight & Magnolias to raise awareness for Smoke-Free Ohio. We stood outside before each performance in a peaceful and good-natured protest. We handed out anti-smoking propaganda aimed at Hannas decision, and reminded people to vote no on Issue 4 and yes on Issue 5.

This wasnt a boycott. In fact, we told people that it was a great show, except for the smoking part. If anything, we generated extra publicity for the play. Our goal was just to create some social pressure to show smokers that lighting up in public places is not acceptable.

Apparently, some people still disagree. In the article “Smoke Free Workplace Act filters down to the way indoor theater will be presented,” Dec. 3, Hanna asserts that it will take time for audiences to “accept this convention without laughing.”

Thats ridiculous. If members of the audience couldnt use their imaginations and suspend disbelief, theater wouldnt even exist. Does Hanna think that each time a boy stepped onstage at the Globe as Juliet, the audience was too busy laughing to listen to the balcony scene? Please.

To make the article more balanced, the Dayton Daily News might have mentioned that this debate was going on in our community even before the election. The writer also might have sought opinions from both sides.

Instead of offering all perspectives on this issue, the article read like a nostalgia piece for the good old days when actors could smoke onstage, unhindered by pesky laws.

The DDN article mentioned several film icons who smoked on screen and in real life. But you neglected to mention that Humphrey Bogart died of esophageal cancer, Sammy Davis Jr. died of throat cancer, and Dean Martin died of respiratory failure caused by emphysema and lung cancer. Smoking is known to cause all of these diseases.

Since these film legends smoked when the script called for it, can we say they died for their art? Hardly. Their deaths werent that noble or purposeful; they simply died from their addiction to tobacco. And who knows how many nonsmokers they killed with their secondhand smoke.

Creative license and freedom of speech are important, but your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. Theater-goers who pay $35 to see a play have a right not to be assaulted by secondhand smoke.

Pam Strohmeyer is a registered nurse who works as a clinical research coordinator at a local hospital.

She lives in Miamisburg.

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