Penn panned for lighting up at Toronto film fest
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 13, 2006 | 4:39 PM ET
Hollywood star Sean Penn has run afoul of Ontario government officials for smoking during an indoor event last weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Various newspapers and media outlets, including CBC Arts Online, published images of the Oscar-winning actor lighting up on Sunday during the press conference for his film All the King's Men, which had its world premiere in Toronto on Sunday evening and hits North American theatres Sept. 22.
The press conferences are held inside a Toronto hotel ballroom.
Toronto film festival organizers must remind stars, like Sean Penn, about Ontario's smoking ban, health officials said Wednesday. Images of the Oscar-winner smoking during a news conference on Sunday were published by various media outlets.
(Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
No one should violate the province's smoking ban — designed to protect workers from second-hand smoke —whether it's Penn or an average bar patron, Ontario's minister of health promotion, Jim Watson, said Wednesday.
"Sean Penn's a great actor," Watson said, adding however that "if he was smoking and in breach of the law, he could be charged, and he should be charged."
Watson urged festival organizers to send a reminder about Ontario's smoking laws to their Hollywood guests "in a not-so-subtle fashion."
Watson also said the Toronto Public Health Unit must do a better job at dealing with festival visitors who flout the smoking laws. So far, Ontario has charged about 300 people with violating the provincewide smoking ban that came into effect in May, he said. They were all assessed fines of $105.
Chief medical officer anticipates investigation
Dr. Sheela Basrur, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said it is up to festival organizers and managers at the hotel to ensure guests know of the smoking ban and to enforce it.
However, she acknowledged that the Penn incident "has certainly been an item of significant attention … and I expect Toronto Public Health to follow provincial protocols in investigating."
A charge against Penn or the hotel can only be laid if someone submits an official complaint.
Later Wednesday, festival spokesman Denny Alexander apologized that the press conference moderator did not speak up about Penn's smoking on Sunday. He added that organizers do make every effort "to ensure our guests are aware and respect Ontario's smoke-free act."
Smoking incident singled out as tobacco figures released
On Wednesday, Watson and other health and medical officials unveiled the latest figures regarding tobacco consumption in Ontario.
Consumption has fallen 18.7 per cent since 2003 — closely approaching Ontario's goal of reducing tobacco consumption by 20 per cent before the end of 2007.
According to a government release, smoking kills 16,000 people in the province each year, while tobacco-related diseases cost the Ontario economy at least $1.7 billion for health care annually.
Smoking complaints also dogged Richards
Recently, Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards was embroiled in a similar incident during the European leg of the band's A Bigger Bang concert tour.
In late August, Glasgow City Council received complaints about Richards lighting up during a performance.
Eventually, officials ruled that the rock icon did not break Scotland's anti-smoking law because the performance took place on an outdoor stage.
While Scotland bans smoking in enclosed public places, the law does not apply to outdoor venues.With files from the Canadian Press