For Barack Obama, Smoking Will Have to Cease In the White House

David Kaufman, M.D. Health Pro
  • A new year is here, and now  the United States will have a new president. Barack Obama's election is a landmark in many ways, including the fact that he is a cigarette smoker. Major news organizations have featured articles on Obama's smoking habit. The New York Times recently reported that Obama has been trying to quit, but has failed despite a few attempts, even using nicotine replacement chewing gum. The article has several good pieces of advice. It points out that most people who quite smoking need several attempts, often as many as 8 or 10. It also discusses some aspects of nicotine replacement, such as using the patch in addition to chewing gum. The article also mentions a toll-free hotline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) that is available for smokers to call to get help in quitting. In my home state of Connecticut, telephone help is available in English and Spanish.

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    Finding a place to smoke is going to be difficult for Obama. The White House, like many public buildings, is a smoke-free area. Last month, he promised that he would not violate the rules of the White House and would quit smoking by the time he takes office, though he also admitted that he has "fallen off the wagon" at times while trying to quit.


    Interest in Obama's smoking habit has followed him since he declared himself as a candidate for the White House in early 2007 right through the time he secured the nomination of the Democratic party. Not surprisingly, his smoking was kept tightly under wraps during the presidential campaign, with only a few photographs available to show him smoking. The last president known to have a serious smoking habit was Gerald R. Ford, who left office in 1977.


    So a generation has gone by since the last president who was a smoker. In the past 32 years, a lot has changed about how we understand smoking. The damage smoking does to health has become clearer, and it appears that American culture has turned, in general, against smoking. Laws that limit where people can smoke have encountered relatively little opposition, and they seem to be effective in preventing smoking-related health problems.


    Some wonder whether smoking will become more acceptable with a high-profile person like Obama in the public view. Others, like me, hope that the public profile of our nation's president trying to quit will set a good example to smokers everywhere. Maybe he will share his experiences with us when he kicks the habit for good!



Published On: January 16, 2009