Opinion Brief

Why is Obama still smoking?

The president's doctor gave him a clean bill of health — with one big exception. Here's what is known about Obama's nicotine habit

Barack Obama has passed his first presidential physical with flying colors: At 48, he's in "excellent health," with 20/20 vision, and a resting heart rate of 56 bpm. But some Americans are concerned by the doctor's recommendation that he "continue smoking cessation efforts" — evidence that the president still hasn't kicked his decades-old cigarette habit. (Watch a CBS report about Obama's smoking habit.) Here's what's known about Obama's nicotine addiction:

How much does Obama smoke?
"Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker?" said Obama last June, "No. I don't do it in front of my kids, I don't do it in front of my family." To avoid setting "a bad example," he is also careful never to smoke in public. When his habit was at its heaviest, he reportedly consumed seven or eight cigarettes a day but he's recently said that he's "95 percent cured." Press secretary Robert Gibbs says Obama only "occasionally falls off the wagon."

When did he start?
Unknown, but Obama was smoking by the time he entered Occidental College.

How has the President tried to quit?
"I know he works on [quitting smoking] each and every day," says Gibbs, adding that "smoking cessation efforts" cited in the doctor's report consist mainly of nicotine gum-chewing. Obama has been trying to quit since at least 2006, when Michelle Obama made it clear she would not support her husband's presidential run unless he stopped smoking.

What brand does Obama smoke?
Michelle Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2004 that Obama smoked Marlboros. While he's still thought to prefer Marlboro Reds, he also admitted that he "bummed" cigarettes during his 2008 campaign, so he may not be a Reds purist.

Where does Obama smoke?
Not inside the White House — Hillary Clinton effected a smoking ban in the building when her husband was president. Reportedly, when the "Smoker in Chief" wants to light up, he pops out to the West Colonnade, which connects the Oval Office to the Rose Garden. There are no known photos of Obama smoking while president.

Is Obama facing any political flak from this latest revelation that he's still smoking?
Some conservative bloggers are slamming Obama for smoking after signing anti-smoking measures into law. Intriguingly, however, most of Obama's critics — including the Drudge Report — have focused on another section of the medical report that urges "moderation in alcohol intake." Although they interpret this as a red flag, the report is actually "recommending" that Obama continue his moderate drinking.

Is Obama an exception among recent presidents when it comes to smoking?
It seems so, yes. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, was a recovering alcoholic who did not smoke, though First Lady Laura Bush reportedly sneaked an occasional cigarette on the White House balcony. Dwight D. Eisenhower had a four-pack-a-day habit, but quit cold turkey while in office.

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