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Post Opinion - Editorial

MAYOR MIKE'S ODD OBSESSION


October 11, 2002 -- Mayor Mike sure has been blowing some serious smoke lately.

Take Hizzoner's testimony yesterday before the City Council concerning his prohibitionist, er, proposed smoking ban: "The air in a smoke-filled bar is more dangerous to breathe than that in the Holland Tunnel at rush hour."

Pretty scary, no?

But he offered not a scintilla of proof.

Nor did his alleged expert on the subject, a fellow purported by Mayor Bloomberg to be a specialist in such things.

All of this followed up Bloomberg's earlier, equally bizarre allegation that twice as many people die in New York from the effects of second-hand smoke than are murdered these days.

The charge is nonsense on its face: The wizards at the city Health Department did some long division on a 10-year-old study, and conjured up a conclusion meant to support the mayor's thesis.

But even nonsense usually gets a ride in the media when mayors speak in public, because mayors are supposed to know what they are talking about.

This one conflates tobacco smoke with the Black Plague, and no one says boo.

There are two issues, at least, here.

One is the wisdom of Mayor Mike's effort to ban smoking in public, no matter where or when. He'll probably win, in one form or another - at considerable cost to tourism and related industries - because that's how the wind is blowing.

But it will be necessary for Bloomberg to speak untruths to win, because there is no science to support his case.

Witness the whoppers above.

And thus he will pay a price - in credibility.

This will not serve the city well in the coming weeks and months, when the looming budget crises begin to gain traction and Bloomberg will need to make a case for responsible fiscal policies.

If he's fibbing now, who's going to believe him when he has to face down a City Council slathering to raise taxes to prevent necessary spending cuts?

Nobody, that's who.

The fact is that second-hand smoke has never been scientifically proven to cause cancer. And an effort by the federal Environmental Protection Agency simply to assert a connection and proceed from there was kiboshed by a U.S. district court judge in 1998.

Why?

The judge found a total lack of credible scientific evidence to support the notion that second-hand smoke is dangerous.

What's truly baffling about all this is that Bloomberg would waste so much time, energy and political capital on such a comparatively trivial issue.

Not a week has gone by that Bloomberg hasn't huffed and puffed on the subject.

Frankly, there are many more pressing issues - see above, fiscal crises - that need tending to.

This crusade has gotten way out of hand. It's time to end it.

Now.


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