Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

You Deserve a Break Today, but Thank You for Not Smoking

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

You Deserve a Break Today, but Thank You for Not Smoking

Article excerpt

The McDonald's Corp., in an orchestrated show of concern for the nation's health, has joined with the National Council of Chain Restaurants supporting a bill in Congress to outlaw smoking in all restaurants and other public buildings. It backed up this recommendation by announcing its own ban in all 1,400 company-owned outlets.

What a relief. McDonald's patrons will now be able to happily chow their way into heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes without the lurking anxiety that they will succumb to lung cancer.

Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who is sponsoring the bill, welcomed the endorsement, announcing solemnly that "Congress must choose between Ronald McDonald and Joe Camel." He apparently saw no paradox in the world's biggest purveyor of french fries, cheeseburgers and milkshakes playing the role of health nanny. It's as if Hugh Hefner were lamenting the decline of the work ethic.

The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, which kills some 915,000 people a year. If McDonald's wants to increase the life expectancy of its clientele, the best thing it could do is go out of business.

Failing that, you wouldn't think the company would want to promote the idea that Americans can't be entrusted with responsibility for their own health and therefore need Uncle Sam to protect them from weakness and folly. A paternalistic government, once it has eradicated the danger from tobacco, may next train its guns on saturated fat and sodium, which could be the end of fast-food chains.

McDonald's executives act as if they are doing their customers a favor, but they don't seem too sure. The obvious problem is that if you forbid smoking, two things can happen. One is that non-smokers will beat a path to your door. The other is that smokers will head to the hamburger place next door where they still feel welcome.

If the first effect outweighs the second, McDonald's comes out ahead; if not, it loses money. A total national ban would avoid the risk, however, by depriving tobacco addicts of any alternative. …

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