Saturday, November 3, 2007

Can Obama Quit Smoking?

Does nicotine addiction matter in a president?

Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, and Clinton all enjoyed their occasional cigarettes and cigars. Laura Bush as been accused of bumming a cigarette or two since entering the Oval Office.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama smokes, too, but I could not find a picture of him actually doing it--and neither can anybody else, it seems. By all accounts, Barack Obama continues to struggle mightily in his current quitting attempt, which began in the form of a campaign promise to his wife. Sources say he’s getting by—barely--with the “strenuous” use of nicotine chewing gum.

Is there any way for Obama to connect with FDR and his rakish cigarette holder? Or is a president who smokes simply out of step with a nation seemingly bent on emptying all workspaces and gathering places of tobacco smoke? In a smoke-free nation, will the next president be forced to huddle on the rear portico of the White House, with the serving staff, and fieldstrip the odd Marb?

The fact that Obama may have messed with a little weed, a little blow, back in the day, seems, at long last, to be a non-starter as a wedge issue of any consequence. If Newt Gingrich smoked pot in college, everybody smoked pot in college. Even before Obama had officially entered the race last year, Michael Currie Schaffer of the Dallas Morning News ventured to guess that “youthful coke-dabblers probably outnumber adult smokers among Mr. Obama’s fellow 1980s, Harvard law students.”

On the other hand, as Maureen Dowd cooed in the New York Times, the smoking habit made Obama “intriguingly imperfect.” Ah, that touch of the rogue. Simply irresistible. Clearly, this is meant to separate Obama as a candidate from that oh-so-perfect and impeccably smoke-free Hilary Clinton, who in point of fact was personally responsible for the first official no-smoking regulations in the White House.

Nonetheless, as Schaffer points out, nowadays smoking is “actuarially foolish and hopelessly out of fashion,” and as such, can do Obama no good, even as a humanizing gambit. Fox News called it “Obama’s dirty little secret.” The fact that Obama hasn’t officially overcome the habit means he cannot lean on any sort of triumph over adversity, any type of uplifting self-help story, as even George Bush was able to do with his former drinking.

Some anti-smoking advocates want Obama to come out of the closet and embrace his inner nicotine fiend in public. According to the New York Times, Smoking cessation experts say they hope Mr. Obama’s example of using a nicotine gum will encourage smokers to try a nicotine replacement product to help them quit.” But for ABC News, as correspondent Jake Tapper put it, the big question is: “Will Nicorette be enough to get him through Iowa and New Hampshire? Or will he inhale?”

One of the problems with nicotine gums and lozenges, as a British health report recently made clear, is that nicotine replacement is not widely used, because it is expensive--and because it is subject to greater regulation than cigarettes themselves. Warning labels on a pack of Nicorette far exceed the side effects listed on a pack of Camels.


Anonymous said...

"Presidential candidate Barack Obama smokes, too, but I could not find a picture of him actually doing it--and neither can anybody else, it seems."

It's as simple as typing "obama smoking" into a search engine.

Dirk Hanson said...

There are a lot of pics of Obama smoking, you're right-- but I think most of them are fake. The second pic definitely looks like a fake.

Rebekah said...

LOOK, Our President is "HUMAN" right? I wonder if those who try to put him down, if they truly are "HUMAN." I bet most of those who try to degrade our President for smoking cigarettes, which sooooo many humans mistakenly do, are probably SMOKING CRACK and have nothing better to do.Get a grip, face the facts, have a heart and A MIND and leave us smokers alone. PERIOD

Anonymous said...

Did you know that there are over 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke? These include formaldehyde (used to preserve dead bodies), ammonia (used in strong cleaning liquids) and cadmium (a highly poisonous metal used in batteries).

And if that isn’t reason enough for you to quit smoking, there are more.

Anonymous said...

I wish people would leave the man alone! I don't smoke but I find it horrifying that smokers have become scapegoats in the USA, yet it's perfectly okay for people (including children) to be doped up for new, specious "illnesses", which used to be called stress. It's also okay, apparently, for people to become morbidly obese couch potatoes stuffing their faces full of factory farmed meat. (Oh, and is it me or are do all Fox newscasters look really, really unhealthy, out of shape and so angry that they are going to have an aneurism at any moment?)

Anonymous said...

They need to leave us Smokers Alone and quit messing with our rights!! I would love to see America the greatest country in the world again. Please leave the smokers alone and dont judge ppl because they smoke..Its their choice, not yours.

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