There really is a Santa Claus—and he's a public health menace, warns a light-hearted new study in a British medical journal. It identifies a "very high Santa awareness" among children and determines that he's a reckless role model with his frequent cookie snacks, occasional cigars, and refusal to don a helmet during "extreme sports such as roof surfing and chimney jumping."
"Santa is a late adopter of evidence-based behavior change and continues to sport a rotund, sedentary image," writes Australian public health expert Nathan Grills. What's more, "Santa promotes a message that obesity is synonymous with cheerfulness and joviality." And most disturbingly, Santa's close-up contact with sniffling, coughing kids made him a one-man outbreak waiting to happen. "Unsuspecting little Johnny gets to sit on Santa's lap, but as well as his present, he gets H1N1 influenza," Grills warns.