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Thanks, Mom

Missing the point once again, the New York Times editorial board has retroactively endorsed New York Mayor Bloomberg's anti-smoking campaign:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a lot of ridicule for his crusade against smoking, but now it looks as if he will have the last and best laugh. After a decade of only limited progress, New York City has just recorded an 11 percent decline in the number of adults who smoke, in little more than a year.
Even if you believe those numbers (and see below for a comment on that) that's not the point. Bloomberg wasn't being ridiculed for making ineffective anti-smoking proposals; Bloomberg was being ridiculed for sticking his nose where it doesn't belong. Nobody elected Michael Bloomberg to be the city population's mother. What's really sad is not that the Times editors disagree with this, but that they don't even realize that this is the issue.

As to the actual decline, while the press release is prominent on the city's website, damned if I can find the actual report. Which I'd like to find, so I can see the fine print about the methodology, because I find this number awfully suspicious; a sudden sharp spike --


-- sounds more like a survey design or measurement error than a true change. (On the other hand, the cigarette tax was hiked significantly in that time, so it's possible.)

By the way, note that the "11% decline" in smoking is from 22% to 19%; while that's approximately mathematically accurate, I suspect many readers would assume that an 11% decline describes a drop from 22% to 11%. If the Times editors wanted to avoid ambiguity, they should have provided the actual numbers.


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