At intermission during an excellent production of The Addams Family I headed to the outside area that overlooks the Mahalia Jackson Theater's fountains. A little fresh air and a stretch, I thought, would be nice. That section of the building is quite picturesque. In the foreground are shimmering pools under splashing fountains; beyond that is the French Quarter.

Something was wrong though. I inhaled the night air and suddenly wished I hadn't. My eyes were reddened; my nose was feeling irritated. Instead of the fresh air I sought the area was filled with puffs of smoke. This was where the smokers had congregated. I hurried back inside where the mechanically circulated air was purer.

As a nation we have taken a huge step by outlawing smoking in public indoor spaces, but that has caused a counter-problem: Nicotine puffs are now concentrated right outside. At the theater, what was designed to be a visually attractive and relaxing area is now where the smokers hang out during intermission.

Now I can appreciate why New York City has begun to outlaw outdoor smoking. This is an idea that should take effect everywhere. It is unfair to deny exterior spaces to those who prefer not to inhale smoke.

At the Superdome there are barricaded areas outside certain gates where smokers can take their needed puffs during a game. But those areas do not block a view. It is different at the theater. There's one spot with a great vista and it is taken.

Between the smokers and the texters it is too bad so few had time to appreciate the history of where they stood. Ahead was Congo Square where early slave dances created some of the rhythms of New Orleans. The Quarter was where the Louisiana Purchase was finalized, transferring about half the continent to the United States. There is historic territory beyond those steps.

Inside, Gomez Addams and his macabre family worked at being scary, but most frightening to me had been the intermission.