Health conscious America junks smoking, embraces fast food

By Vishnu Makhijani, IANS,

Los Angeles : This is one of the many contradictions of American society: smoking is banned on health grounds in most public places – but not in the outdoors – while no steps are considered necessary to check the burgeoning consumption of junk food that is definitely considered a health hazard.

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Thus, you have a situation in which smoking is banned in government offices, restaurants and even hotel rooms – but not in the areas surrounding these places.

So much so that a stern warning, very carefully worded, greets visitors to a swanky beach resort and spa an hours’ drive from here.

“Enjoy your non-smoking room”, reads the notice in bold capitals, adding: “A $250 cleaning fee will be charged for smoking in this room”.

The ban also extends to the various restaurants and party rooms of the hotel.

At the same time, ashtrays are liberally provided in various other parts of the hotel – but outside the building complex.

This results in a situation where clusters of individuals gather outside the main entrance, fighting for space to puff away even as scores of individuals, including large numbers of women and children, make their way in and out of the hotel.

“Yes, it is a contradiction in terms,” admitted a hotel official, adding that the ban had nothing to do with any government regulation.

“These days, it is rather fashionable to keep up with the others, as it were, in declaring our commitment to promoting good health by encouraging people to give up smoking,” he said.

Wasn’t this policy self-defeating in that it was not only failing to prevent people from smoking but also contributing to the pollution of the atmosphere at large?

Sheepishly admitting that this was so, the official said he was not the one responsible for laying down the hotel’s broader policies.

Then, given the hotel’s health concerns, why was it offering a vast array of junk food at its various outlets?

“Yes, I agree that junk food is unhealthy but that’s what our clients want and since we are a service industry, we serve what our clients demand,” was his reply.

So much for logical answers!