Burger Lovers Show Distaste for Smoke

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"I'd like a hamburger, small fries and hold the smoke."

A majority of fast-food consumers would like to order a no-smoking policy in restaurants, according to a survey by Sandelman & Associates, Brea, Calif.

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed by phone strongly favored a no-smoking policy, while 7% somewhat favored it.

"We were not surprised by the number of people in favor of the no-smoking policy considering less than 20% surveyed smoke," said Bob Sandelman, president of the research company.

What was surprising is that close to one-quarter said they would visit fast-food restaurants more often if they banned smoking.

Mr. Sandelman said as word spreads about consumer attitudes about smoking, fast-food marketers are likely to impose nationwide bans.

"When marketers see results that show there is an overwhelming [number of people in] favor of no-smoking [policies], institution of no-smoking policies will begin to snowball," he said.

This year, McDonald's Corp., Arby's, and Taco Bell adopted no-smoking policies in company-owned restaurants. As of April 1, all new Dairy Queen franchisees must be non-smoking, while other stores can set their rules.

Both Arby's and International Dairy Queen claim they were spurred by the Environmental Protection Agency's ruling that secondhand smoke is harmful. Carl's Jr., a burger chain operated by CKE Restaurants, banned smoking in 1991.

"According to this survey, if a fast-food chain were to ban smoking, they would be more likely to gain business than lose business," Mr. Sandelman said.

Women favored a no-smoking policy by 63%, compared to 58% of men. Whites and blacks were equally in favor, at 60%, while 66% of other minorities favored such a ban.

Fast-food marketers' core audience of those under 35 are more likely to favor a no-smoking policy than their elders. That was particularly true for 25-to-34-year-olds, with 65% favoring a no-smoking policy. That percentage dropped as low as 57.4%, for 35-to-44-year-olds.

The survey was conducted in April and May, among a random sample of 6,230 fast-food users in 31 U.S. markets. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.3 percentage points.

A separate, independent survey by Opinion Research Corp. released last week found that non-smokers are more likely than smokers (61% vs. 18%) to agree strongly that smoking should be banned from all public places. Opinion Research conducted its survey among 1,010 adults selected at random.

Jeanne Whalen contributed to this story.

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