The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld a state ban on smoking by actors onstage, ruling that public health trumps actor's freedom of expression.
The court ruled 6-1 on Monday that a state indoor smoking ban applies to theaters. Observers called it the first decision by a state court upholding the extension of a smoking ban to theatrical performances.
Of 24 states with indoor smoking bans, 12 have exemptions or exemptions on a case-by-case basis for theatrical performances, according to the ruling.
The court said performances typically convey their message "by imitation rather than by scientific demonstration" and that there are alternatives to smoking on stage.
It also agreed with Attorney General John Suthers' argument that the state Legislature passed a narrowly tailored law to protect public welfare, not to limit speech.
Colorado's law bans using alternatives to tobacco cigarettes, such as cigarettes filled with cloves or tea leaves.