updated 8/11/2005 5:33:51 PM ET 2005-08-11T21:33:51

People digging into buckets of chicken or munching slices of pizza soon won’t be allowed to light up cigarettes at company-owned KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants.

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Yum Brands Inc., the parent of both chains, on Thursday announced its decision to snuff out smoking at the KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants it owns nationwide.

Louisville-based Yum said “No Smoking” signs will go up beginning next week at the 1,200 KFC and 1,675 Pizza Hut restaurants across the country that are company-owned.

Franchise operators in the two chains will also be encouraged to join the initiative. Yum’s massive franchise network in the U.S. includes 4,200 KFC and 4,600 Pizza Hut restaurants.

Concerns about health risks
The two chains’ top executives said the new policy stemmed from concerns about health risks from secondhand smoke for customers and employees.

“This is a critical issue,” said Gregg Dedrick and Peter Hearl, presidents of KFC and Pizza Hut, respectively. “In our opinion, going smoke-free is simply the right thing to do.”

Health advocates applauded Yum’s decision and predicted it would win customer approval.

“This shows that they are concerned about the health of their employees and customers,” said John L. Kirkwood, president and CEO of the American Lung Association. “Our experience is that the public embraces smoke-free environments. We hope that others follow their lead.”

Dr. Carolyn D. Runowicz, president-elect of the American Cancer Society, predicted that Yum’s decision “will most certainly save lives.”

'Smoke knows no bounds'
“Smoke knows no bounds, and secondhand smoke is a known health hazard,” she said.

Smoking policies at KFC and Pizza Hut varied by restaurant. Some stores provided smoking sections, and others allowed people to light up anywhere.

Yum spokesman Jonathan Blum said the switch to the smoke-free stores had been considered for a couple of months. Asked what impact it might have on sales, he said, “We’re focused on doing the right thing.”

He added that “the dine-in occasion at a KFC is not an extensive period of time. So we don’t think our customers will be inconvenienced by this.”

Yum’s three other fast-food brands — Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s and A&W All-American Foods Restaurants, already have smoke-free policies in U.S. stores.

Smoking is prohibited in all Taco Bell stores, both franchised and company-owned, and in Long John Silver’s and A&W restaurants that are company-owned.

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