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Fast-Food Franchisee Experiments With Smoke-free Restaurants

February 19, 1993

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) _ McDonald’s, concerned about serving up secondhand cigarette smoke with its meals, is trying an anti-puff policy at some of its restaurants.

″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,″ said Mark Levine, who owns two McDonald’s here where smoking will be banned.

Levine’s restaurants are among about 40 McDonald’s nationwide will ban smoking next week, said Terri Capatosto, a spokeswoman at headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.

McDonald’s announcement Friday comes six weeks after an Environmental Protection Agency report that said secondhand smoke is a carcinogen that kills about 3,000 nonsmokers a year from lung cancer and is responsible for up to 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in children.

Capatosto didn’t know how long the ban will be tried before a decision is made.

″We feel this is something all public places should be concerned with,″ said Richard G. Starmann, a McDonald’s vice-president.

There are nearly 9,000 McDonald’s in the United States.

Dozens of Wendy’s restaurants banned smoking last year. Burger King has no plans to snuff out smoking sections, spokeswomen said.

Munching a Big Mac without a cigarette shouldn’t be too tough for smokers, said Mike Shepherd, 46, who has a pack-a-day habit.

″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 it.

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

But another customer, Garry Niedbalski, said a total ban goes too far, and that separate smoking areas are more appropriate.

John F. Banzhaf, a lawyer and executive director of Action on Smoking and Health in Washington, 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.

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

Wendy Webster, a spokeswoman for the National Restaurant Association, said 22 states don’t regulate smoking in restaurants.

Susan Kosling, a spokeswoman for Wendy’s International, based in Dublin, Ohio, said some franchises banned smoking last year, including 20 in Salt Lake City and 12 near Bakersfield, Calif. Some 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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