To smoke, or not? In Minn., that is the question

By KYLE POTTER | March 4, 2013 | 3:31 PM EST

In this Jan. 29, 2013 photo, Vanda, played by Anna Sundberg, smokes during a dress rehearsal with Thomas, played by Peter Christian Hansen, for the play "Venus in Fur" at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, Minn. Minnesota lawmakers are trying to amend the state's smoking ban to eliminate an exemption for theatrical productions. (AP Photo/Michal Daniel)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Theater employees in Minnesota are pushing back against a call to ban smoking on stage.

Bain Boehlke, the artistic director at a theater in Minneapolis, worries that alternatives like electronic or herbal cigarettes will pull audiences out of the action of a performance. Boehlke says the smell and feel of a real cigarette is essential to portraying a play, especially those set in the past.

Minnesota is one of 11 states, plus Washington, D.C., with smoking bans that allow actors to light up on stage. Lawmakers included the exemption for theaters in a 2007 statewide ban.

The Democratic state senator who wrote the bill says there's no reason theaters need to use tobacco cigarettes. She introduced the bill on behalf of a constituent with a severe tobacco smoke allergy.