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. (Read more Santa Claus stories.)