A Smoke-Free New York

Like many New Yorkers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has little patience for that nasty addiction known as cigarette-smoking. What sets Mr. Bloomberg apart from the rest of us, however, is that he can do something to protect thousands of New Yorkers from the scourge of tobacco smoke.

The Mayor has proposed a ban on smoking in all restaurants and bars, a measure that would eliminate current exceptions granted to small eating and drinking establishments. New York would have one of the nation’s toughest anti-smoking laws. In essence, if there’s a roof over your head (and it’s not your own roof), you won’t be able to smoke.

The Mayor deserves the support of the City Council and, in fact, of all New Yorkers who understand that smoking damages the health not just of smokers, but of those forced to breathe in the noxious fumes. Waiters and bartenders who work long shifts in the city’s smoke-filled bars may not be smokers themselves, but they may as well be because of all the secondhand smoke they’re forced to inhale. Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal would rescue them from their unpleasant, unhealthy working conditions.

Opponents will claim that the measure will drive bars and small restaurants out of business. But that’s what the large restaurants claimed in the past, when more modest smoking regulations were put in place. Years later, there is no evidence that tough anti-smoking measures have killed the restaurant industry in New York. There’s also been some hue and cry about how tobacco-puffing Europeans will now shun the city, but it’s highly unlikely that tourists would list the ability to smoke in a restaurant as one of their Top 10 reasons for visiting New York.

In a sense, Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal will extend the quality-of-life crusade that his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, launched eight years ago. A smoking ban will improve the lives and health of restaurant-industry workers and patrons. And getting rid of the proverbial smoky bar will make New York a cleaner, more livable city-just the kind of image the city needs now.

The Mayor already has increased city taxes on cigarettes, so much so that a pack now costs $7. Now he’s ready to take the battle to a new level. It won’t be easy-the tobacco companies don’t give up without a fight-but he’s on the right side. And if common sense and good health count for anything, he’ll prevail. New York will be a healthier city as a result.

Harold Levy: A Class Act

As he departs 110 Livingston Street this week, outgoing Schools Chancellor Harold Levy leaves the city’s schoolchildren in significantly better shape than he found them when he took office in 2000. In a school system that has consumed and spat out several capable chancellors, Mr. Levy was a cut above, and he did a remarkable job of offering hope to public-school kids and their parents despite an embattled, embittered bureaucracy and a Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, who was openly contemptuous of him during his early days as chancellor.

This businessman turned educator proved that intelligence and boldness can still make a difference in New York’s famously stubborn and surreal education culture. His departure means the city is losing a decent and dedicated public servant, and history will have to judge whether Mayor Michael Bloomberg erred in not making it comfortable for Mr. Levy to stay. Indeed, with Mr. Bloomberg’s recent victory in gaining Mayoral control of the Board of Education, it would have made particular sense to keep a man of Mr. Levy’s proven qualities at hand. At the very least, the Mayor should have offered the 49-year-old chancellor a plum role elsewhere in his administration.

While Mr. Levy didn’t make his job look easy-no human could have done so-he did make it look doable, and that in itself is something of a miracle. He came in as a former Citigroup executive-the city’s first chancellor from outside the education realm-and immediately faced a split Board of Ed and a Mayor who thrived on attacking the school system. He ignored the dramas and got to work, pushing for privatizing the city’s worst schools, dramatically expanding the summer-school program, and initiating a process which drew thousands of people from other careers into public-school teaching. He launched a plan to eliminate more than 1,500 administrative jobs at the Board of Ed, for projected savings of $300 million. He worked to adapt the Police Department’s Compstat program-which uses computer tracking to hold local managers responsible for performance in their neighborhoods-to the schools. When downtown schools were disrupted by the Sept. 11 attack, he was a stabilizing presence. And this year he made it more attractive for teachers to work in New York, by raising the starting salary to $39,000 from $31,900. This fall, 100 percent of starting teachers will be certified, compared with 40 percent in recent years.

Mr. Levy had offered to stay through September, to help with the start of school. In a sign perhaps of overzealousness, the incoming chancellor, former federal prosecutor Joel Klein, made it clear that he wanted the office to himself, starting now. And so Mr. Bloomberg gave Mr. Levy the bum’s rush out the door. But Mr. Levy leaves with his dignity intact, a record that will be hard to beat, and the gratitude of all New Yorkers.

Men vs. Women: Who Tastes Better?

Who enjoys food more, men or women? While men’s girth might suggest that they are the more avid gourmands, it’s no secret that women spend a lot of time thinking about food-perhaps even as much time as men spend thinking about sex. A new study by the National Institutes of Health suggests, however, that men get more of a pleasure fix from the act of eating than women do.

The subjects were asked to fast for 36 hours, and then were served a meal while their brain activity was monitored. The scientists at the N.I.H. found that when a man ate, the area of his brain that indicates pleasure or reward was more active than the same area of a woman’s brain. The researchers also found evidence that men derive greater pleasure from feeling full after a meal than women do.

Expect more studies that look at taste buds and gender. “This field is in its infancy,” said the N.I.H.’s Angelo Del Parigi. For the moment, men have some scientific backing for what they’ve long suspected: Even if you feel full, she’ll appreciate it if you order dessert.

A Smoke-Free New York