Westminster Council (which governs Theatreland) and Liverpool Council are trying to pass legislation that would see lighting a cigarette "in all enclosed places of work" banned. That includes stages and, say London theatre bosses, it could lead to difficulties for works ranging from Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest to Simon Gray’s The Old Masters, in which lighting cigarettes is intrinsic to the plot or style of the play. Richard Pulford, the chief executive of the Society of London Theatres, told the Guardian, "We have a problem with this. Our members obviously put on plays, and plays sometimes requires the characters to smoke. In The Old Masters, for example, the plot to a certain extent turns on the smoking of a cigar. In more general terms, there are characters for whom smoking is so closely associated with them that taking it away would detract from them totally. Sherlock Holmes, for example, or almost any Noel Coward character."
In response, Liverpool City Council’s leader Mike Storey suggested that “there are ways around this when we talk about actors smoking — they could use dummy cigarettes for example. But I would also say that soap operas and plays in which people smoke promote bad role models anyway.”