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    Crowe's Smoking Sparks Controversy

    Russell Crowe's got some Kiwis in a huff. Or, should we say, puff.

    Public health authorities in his native New Zealand are investigating whether the Oscar winner violated anti-smoking regulations for indoor concert venues after he chain-smoked onstage during performances last week in Auckland and Wellington with his latest rock outfit, the Ordinary Fear of God.

    Per the New Zealand Herald, Crowe was told at least once to put out the cigarettes at Wellington's Ilott Theatre because it ran afoul of the Smoke-Free Environments Amendment Act, which bars people from lighting up in bars, restaurants and casinos.

    However, everyone's favorite Gladiator reportedly failed to comply and unleashed plumes of second-hand smoke upon unwitting concertgoers, sparking an uproar among anti-smoking zealots who complained there's a double-standard.

    "So, he's above the law because he's a celebrity or something? Just because you're Russell Crowe doesn't mean you can do whatever you like," Becky Freeman, director of Action on Smoking and Health, told the paper's Sunday edition.

    While most in attendance didn't seem to mind and welcomed Crowe with a huge ovation, the Ministry of Health says it has assigned officers to look into the matter.

    "If there was a report of what may be a breach of the legislation, we would follow that up," Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, chief adviser of public health, told the paper.

    Crowe may be in the clear, however, since the Herald said the law mainly assigns responsibility for maintaining a smoke-free space to the club's management, not necessarily patrons or performers.

    If a venue fails to comply or doesn't take the proper steps to prevent people from puffing by displaying no-smoking signs and issuing verbal cautions, then it faces a fine of up to $1,422 if prosecuted.

    The 41-year-old actor's promoter, Brent Eccles, said he wasn't aware whether Crowe knew he was in breach of the regulations or was told to stop.

    "I saw him smoking...but he was doing it very discreetly...I don't think anyone took any notice, to be honest," Eccles told the Herald, calling a formal investigation "an overreaction."

    The Wellington-born thesp, who now makes his home in Australia with wife Danielle and their two-year-old son, Charles, was in his hometown for a gig with his new rock band, the Ordinary Fear of God, which preserved the initials of his old ensemble, Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts, and featured three members of that group. Crowe showcased a number of originals and a couple of Johnny Cash covers to loud applause, but critics were less than kind, calling his set pedestrian at best.

    Crowe, whose extracurricular activity has generated nearly as many headlines as his screen work, most notably his phone-tossing tantrum last year in New York, is looking forward to getting back to his day job.

    He'll next star with Nicole Kidman in an untitled romantic epic from director Baz Luhrmann and 20th Century Fox. The movie is scheduled to go before the cameras later this summer, Crowe told the Sydney Morning Herald recently.

    "When Baz is ready, I'm there," he wrote in a letter to the paper, adding he was fired up about working with Luhrmann. "I don't know anything about the revisions he is doing, but I'm sure they are smart."

    When he's not acting or rocking out, Crowe's indulging his sporting side, purchasing a majority stake last month in the National Rugby League's famed South Sydney Rabbitohs.

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