Many movies depict children and minors (and non smoking actors) actively smoking a cigarette and blowing actual smoke. How is that done?


Actually the film makers claim that the cigarettes used by the minors are tobacco-free cigarettes or nicotine-free cigarettes. They are commonly called herbal cigarette.

According to wikipedia,

Herbal cigarettes are also used in acting scenes by performers who are non-smokers, or -- as is becoming increasingly common -- where anti-smoking legislation prohibits the use of tobacco in public spaces.Herbal cigarettes are not viewed as physically addictive, as they do not contain addictive substances.

picture of packet of herbal cigarettes

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One of the more famous scenes of a young actress smoking is Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon:

This article quotes her as saying:

"Peter [Bogdanovich, the director] wanted me to smoke in the movie, but the cigarettes were filled with lettuce, not tabacco. They glued sandpaper to my fingers so I could strike a match one-handed."

It also has discussions of the following other young actresses:

  • Natalie Portman in Leon: The Professional
  • Thora Birch in Now and Then
  • Dakota Fanning in Hounddog
  • Kiernan Shipka on Mad Men
  • AnnaSophia Robb in Sleepwalking

As mentioned in another answer, they almost all mention some type of herbal cigarettes.

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I think the actors suck the smoke only into their mouths, but not into their lungs so it doesn't do damage to the lungs.

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  • 6
    but how do they keep from increasing the chances of mouth cancer, if they are using real cigarettes, with tobacco and nicotine? – CGCampbell Nov 30 '14 at 14:41
  • 1
    @CGCampbell You don't get cancer from a few cigarettes (not that I would approve of having kids smoking under any condition, btw.) – Martin Tournoij Jan 25 '16 at 4:34
  • Would it be fair to say that they didn't inhale? – The Movie Man Jul 26 at 5:36

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