It was "close but no cigar" again this year for the Utah Jazz in their quest for an NBA championship. The Chicago Bulls, on the other hand, had their cigars and smoked them, too, before a Delta Center crowd and adoring television audience of millions after claiming the crown.

While it may not have been a big deal to Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and others to light up a celebratory stogie, it was bad form in a health-conscious age and a bad signal to the youth of the world. Cigars may be synonymous with celebration in American culture. Red Auerbach made them a courtside staple during his reign as coach over the Boston Celtic dynasty. But really, isn't it time to send smoking the way of the peach basket on the wall, short shorts and center jump following every basket?The health risks ought to be obvious. Americans should begin to expect more of their superstar athletes who - like it or not - are role models. Violating Utah's Indoor Clean-Air Act probably didn't warrant arrest and lockup, though that may have been a healthy emotional outlet for thousands of frustrated Jazz fans, but the Bulls should have known better.

Likewise, Jordan's comments about getting drunk in celebration were beneath the dignity he has otherwise brought to the game.

Delegates to the American Medical Association's annual convention in Chicago didn't take the Bulls' behavior lightly. They voted Tuesday for the AMA to urge sports teams and the television industry to keep tobacco products off the air during and after games.

Cigar smoking has serious health effects, including heart and lung disease and cancer of the mouth, esophagus, larynx and lungs. Unfortunately, at a time cigarette smoking is declining, cigar smoking is increasing, up 18 percent between 1996 and 1997. Doctors overwhelming agreed, as do we, that the issue is too important to ignore.

It's fine to "be like Mike" sans cigar. But even a little fun-loving smoke clouds an otherwise stellar athletic performance and wrongly encourages youths and others to follow suit.