Letter to President Obama: Please Stop Smoking

Anne Mitchell Health Guide
  • Dear President Obama,


    I greatly admire your work and your amazing ascension as leader of the free world, against what appeared to be terrible odds. I can only guess at the stress you must now be under.

    You probably felt that you had to quit smoking a while ago because of your growing presence in the limelight. And it seems that you were mostly successful -- there certainly aren’t any recent pictures of you smoking and you appear to be the image of health.


    However, I heard your response last week to the question of whether you had finally quit smoking for good. You elegantly dodged the question by saying that you had not yet smoked in the White House. It seems that if you had quit smoking completely, you would have said so, being the forthright speaker that you are.

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    I presume you don’t just go outside when you need a smoke, so I can only guess that your aides enable you by helping you get to a private place outside of the White House to occasionally feed your still smoldering addiction.

    My fervent wish for you is that you can show struggling smokers out there what it’s like to quit smoking even while under tremendous strain. Show them how you quit smoking despite feeling that you deserved this small grace of relief; how you quit smoking so that you could proudly tell your daughters that you are nicotine-addiction free; how you are relieved to be free of the gnawing presence of the need to smoke.

    You have risen to great heights because of your determination and fortitude -- I suspect that a lack of determination is not what is holding you back this time. Instead, it is probably what keeps all smokers who don’t want to smoke returning to the drug that keeps sucking them in, sucking them dry: you think of each smoke you surrender to as a quick relief, a temporary reprieve, a way to relax and then you can think about quitting again tomorrow.

    I know because I was there. I was sucked dry day after day, year after year, telling myself and everyone near to me that I was eventually going to be free of this awful destructive addiction. I can’t say it was determination that finally did it for me either. Instead, I think it was a feeling of submission to the knowledge that I would always be trapped by this addiction if I kept feeding it.

    Only by removing the drug and giving myself time, one moment at a time, one week at a time, could I set myself free. Eventually, I was able to string together months, and then years without a cigarette. I had to stop thinking this was a question of willpower -- the use of power implies a struggle. I had to relax and find ways to divert myself every time the urge to smoke came upon me. Pretty soon those urges became less urgent and eventually they stopped altogether. Not by fighting them, but by simply not feeding them.

    President Obama, please stop feeding your addiction -- do it for yourself, your family, and for everyone else who might benefit from your success. Untold numbers of young people and adults look up to you. Imagine what an inspiration you will be when you can say you were finally able to quit smoking for good. And good luck!

  • If you need a little help, please consider these resources: Preparing to Quit Smoking and Give It Up! Stop smoking for life.

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Published On: February 11, 2009