Toronto fest cracks down on lighting up


TORONTO -- The Toronto International Film Festival is hoping visiting stars will butt out this year as it attempts to crack down on smoking for the upcoming Sept. 6-15 edition.

Festival organizers are looking to avoid a repeat of last year when Sean Penn flouted Ontario's anti-smoking laws by puffing on a cigarette at a festival news conference promoting "All the King's Men" in full view of clicking paparazzi.

Penn left town before Toronto public health unit officials investigated and ultimately fined the Sutton Place Hotel, which hosts festival news conferences, for failing to post proper signage warning Penn and others that smoking is forbidden in public spaces in Ontario.

Ahead of this year's festival -- where Penn is returning to promote his latest movie, "Into the Wild" -- Ontario's Ministry of Health Promotion has sent a letter to Toronto organizers warning that no one, movie stars or otherwise, can light up.

"The SFOA (Smoke-Free Ontario Act) requires proprietors and employers to ensure the public is aware of the prohibition on smoking, post appropriate signage as prescribed by the legislation, and ensure no person smokes in prohibited areas," the letter to festival organizers read. "Noncompliance with these obligations could result in charges being laid."

In a statement Friday, festival organizers said they will abide by the province's no-smoking rules, which aim to fend off the ill-effects of secondhand smoke.

"We are aware of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act and will do everything in our power to uphold this law," the festival said.