By Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.
Updated: 7:08 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2005
Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.
In the spirit of "no good deed should go unpunished," let us reflect together upon the oddness of the announcement Thursday by Yum Brands Inc. (no, I did not make that name up) that they plan to make their KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants smoke-free.
The corporate titans at Yum said no-smoking signs will be posted beginning next week at the 1,200 KFC and 1,675 Pizza Hut restaurants across the country that they directly own. It will be up to the other 8,800 outlets owned by franchisees to decide if their customers can no longer top off their extra-crispy chicken, gravy and biscuits with a smoke.
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KFC, Pizza Hut restaurants going smoke-free
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Now, I am not a critic of making restaurants smoke-free. I have no sympathy for the standard libertarian line that goes "if you don’t want to eat in a restaurant where smokers congregate, eat at home." In my opinion, all restaurants should be smoke-free — not just because inhaling secondhand smoke is known to reduce your odds in the long run of coming back for seconds, but because, among other things, smoke stinks. It ruins the taste of food.
Restaurants are places to eat. Smoking has no more place in a restaurant than does burning your trash. Smoking can be done outside. Your freedom ends at the end of my fork. There is no ethical case — absolutely none — for allowing smoking in restaurants. (Satisfied now, all you anti-smoking zealots? I have been assimilated.)
Fast food has its place and while I cannot stand the "pizza" at Pizza Hut, the greasy, cholesterol-infused offerings at KFC do have their artery-clogging charms.
No, my problem with Yum taking the high road when it comes to demon tobacco is that this is a company that took the low road in a big way when it came to public health. This is the same company that took the "Fried" out of Kentucky Fried Chicken and opted for the more nutritionally ambiguous name of KFC. They transformed themselves into KFC precisely because they were worried about whether you would buy their products if they kept telling you they were fried.
"physician, heal thyself." It is hard to lead the charge to improve the nation's health when you are slipping the public mounds of mozzarella cheese, honey barbecued wings and pecan pie.
Arthur Caplan is director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8926892/