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West Australia Opera cancels Carmen over fears it would jeopardise a $400,000 partnership with a government health agency

Carmen is famously set around a cigarette factory, and features smoking. Healthway, the state government’s health promotion agency, which is a WAO partner, does not allow even electronic cigarettes to be smoked at any event which it sponsors.

Carolyn Chard, WAO general manager said: “We care about the health and wellbeing of our staff, stage performers and all the opera lovers throughout WA, which means promoting health messages and not portraying any activities that could be seen to promote unhealthy behaviour.”

Healthway chairwoman Dr Rosanna Capolingua said: “The portrayal of smoking on stage, in film and on TV normalises smoking and presents it as being attractive, which could dissuade smokers from quitting and encourage young people to take it up… In addition, new trends such as smoking electronic cigarettes may re-establish smoking behaviour in our community where the majority of people are non-smokers”.

Dr Capolingua added that Healthway had not pressurised the WAO to cancel Carmen, saying: “It was their choice and I think it’s great that they have chosen not to run Carmen and tell everyone about it.” Dr Capolingua said that while Healthway does not censor art, “As far as Healthway is concerned, it is taxpayers’ dollars and we have to use it to protect and promote the health of Western Australians.”