Actors have come out in protest of a new smoking ban to hit the nation-and one that's aimed at them directly.
From July first onwards, actors will be allowed to light up only during the final performance and not during any rehearsals.
This, believes Equity, the Actors union, is unfair. Says spokes man Martin McGrath: 'We believe that in terms of artistic integrity, performers should be able to rehearse properly with any prop, including a cigarette.' He adds that smoking for real is required to get the timings right.
Their concerns are shared by Conservative peer Earl Howe, 'It is almost impossible to expect an actor to smoke on stage unless they have been able to rehearse', he says.
Yet the health ministry seems unfazed by the numerous representations it admits to have received from the theatre industry. According to health spokesman Baroness Royall, artists can very well use artificial cigarettes if they want to rehearse smoking, or else they should practice smoking off-stage.
'We believe it is necessary for people to be allowed to smoke only during the performance for artistic effect.
'We have considered it carefully, and that is the view', she concludes.