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

3 Answers 3


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


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.

  • Peter Bogdanovich has recorded an audio commentary to Paper Moon, included as a bonus feature on the DVD, in which he explains the same points here attributed to Tatum O'Neil.
    – Chaim
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 1:28

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.

  • 6
    but how do they keep from increasing the chances of mouth cancer, if they are using real cigarettes, with tobacco and nicotine?
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 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.) Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 4:34
  • Would it be fair to say that they didn't inhale? Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 5:36

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