Yesterday, the city proudly trumpeted the fact that the number of smokers in the city has declined by a whopping 35 percent since 2002. But not everyone is buying what the city is selling. "While I can't claim to know what the actual adult smoking rate is," smokers rights activist Audrey Silk told us, "neither can they."

Like some of our commenters, Silk goes on to note in her footnoted e-mail that "the methodology employed (telephone survey) to obtain these statistics is wholly unreliable. When the targets of a crusade reeking of intolerance have been so vilified and persecuted it's crystal clear they will lie to authorities when asked, 'Do you Smoke?' (1, 2) The respondent's fear of being truthful is undoubtedly cemented by the introduction to the survey with, 'I am calling for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. We're conducting an important study to improve the health and health care of New Yorkers.' (3)"

Further, Silk points to a 2009 article that calls further into question the DOH's numbers. In the paper the authors note that: "A notable finding is that smoking prevalence [by measuring the biomarker cotinine]... was 23.3% in NYC [in 2004]. The NYC... prevalences reported here are higher... than results obtained from a random-digit-dialed telephone survey conducted in the same year — 18.4%... — presumably reflecting a more accurate assessment than is possible with self-reported smoking status captured via telephone survey." Or, in other words, the city's stats were off by 27 percent.

So why would the city want to fudge the truth? "Falsely reported smoking prevalence rates is a propaganda tool employed to drive the perception that they have been successful which buys approval for government interference in private lives and to influence others to follow." Plus? Next week when Bloomberg addresses the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the city's health programs he is expected to proudly tout the city's anti-smoking campaigns.