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Sean Penn's $600 smoke

Globe and Mail Update

Toronto — The downtown Toronto hotel that allowed Hollywood actor Sean Penn to light up a cigarette, igniting a controversy over the province's no-smoking law, is facing more than $600 in fines for the incident.

But the once famously pugilistic movie star won't be facing any punishment — unless you count the letter that Toronto's medical officer of health, David McKeown, plans to write.

“I'm going to write to Sean Penn to make sure he's aware of our requirements here in Ontario,” Dr. McKeown said yesterday. He also said he plans to write to Toronto International Film Festival organizers to ensure visiting Hollywood types follow the letter of the law.

Dr. McKeown said his letter to Mr. Penn, which he said would not be made public, would make it clear that the actor is welcome at next year's festival: “I hope that by then he's kicked the habit.”

On Wednesday, an image of Mr. Penn smoking at a film festival news conference inside the Sutton Place Hotel was splashed across newspapers — the same day Ontario's Health Promotion Minister, Jim Watson, held a news conference touting his government's victories in the fight against smoking.

Reporters asked Mr. Watson whether celebrities in Toronto for the festival, and lighting up where they pleased, were getting a free ride. He urged public health officials to investigate anyone breaking the law, movie star or not.

Dr. McKeown said it is normal procedure for public health investigators enforcing the Smoke-Free Ontario Act to focus first on the business where the smoking took place, to see whether proper efforts were made to discourage it.

Only if no fault was found there would charges be pursued against an individual smoker, he said.

He confirmed that the Sutton Place Hotel would receive two tickets under the anti-smoking law: a $240 ticket for failing to post the required no-smoking signs, and a $365 ticket for failing to try to stop Mr. Penn from puffing away. As of late yesterday afternoon, the tickets had not been served.

“We were following our normal procedures. ..... We treated the hotel and Mr. Penn as we would treat any other hotel and patron in this instance,” Dr. McKeown said.

Ontario's strict anti-smoking rules, which came into effect May 31, forbid lighting up in workplaces and any enclosed space open to the public.

Christopher Ashby, head of marketing for the Sutton Place Hotel, would not comment on the incident yesterday.

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