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McDonald’s To Experiment With Smoke-free Restaurants, May Ban Nationwide

February 19, 1993

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) _ Two McDonald’s restaurants here will soon be smoke-free as the fast-food chain considers an anti-puffing policy after recent dire health warnings about secondhand smoke.

″We know how special interest groups on both sides feel about it, but we want to find out how our smoking customers would feel if we asked them not to smoke during their visit to McDonald’s,″ Richard G. Starmann, senior vice president, said today in a statement. ″That’s why we are conducting this test in a number of our restaurants.″

McDonald’s is considering a smoking ban in all its nearly 9,000 U.S. restaurants and will test the idea in some of them, Starmann said in a statement issued from company headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill. The Environmental Protection Agency released a report in January saying secondhand smoke was a carcinogen that kills about 3,000 nonsmokers a year from lung cancer alone and is responsible for up to 300,000 child cases of bronchitis and pneumonia.

Mark Levine, owner of the two restaurants here where the smoking ban takes effect Monday, said ″I have a problem dealing with Happy Meals on one hand and yet knowing the children are coming in a place that could endanger their health.″

Adjusting to munching a Big Mac without a cigarette shouldn’t be tough for modern smokers, said Mike Shepherd, 46, who smokes a pack a day.

″It wouldn’t bother me,″ Shepherd said Thursday while sipping coffee and puffing a cigarette Thursday in one of Levine’s McDonald’s. ″Most of the places I go on business are smoke-free.″

Customer Joe Troskoski, 23, said there should be designated smoking sections in large restaurants, but small restaurants should ban smoking.

″If someone is smoking 10 feet away from me, I can feel it in my lungs. It really bothers me,″ Troskoski said.

Another customer, Garry Niedbalski, said a total ban goes too far, calling separate smoking areas more appropriate.

John F. Banzhaf, a lawyer and the executive director of Action on Smoking and Health in Washington, D.C., said designated smoking sections were not enough.

″Young children are brought into smoking areas. They are placed in a great deal of danger,″ Banzhaf said. ″The question is, could McDonald’s foresee the danger? Certainly, in light of the EPA report they can.″

His group has been trying to persuade more than a dozen fast-food and family restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, to completely ban smoking.

Susan Kosling, a spokeswoman for Wendy’s International, based in Dublin, Ohio, said some franchises have banned smoking in the past year, including 20 in Salt Lake City and 12 in the Bakersfield, Calif., area. In some cases, the bans were in response to local ordinances; others were the decision of the local owners.

″It hasn’t had an impact on sales,″ she said. ″Initially, they got some negative comments, but overall, it’s been a positive experience.″

Cori Zywotow, a spokeswoman for the Miami-based Burger King Corp., said the fast-food chain had no immediate plans to ban smoking, though company-owned restaurants had separate smoking sections.

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