By
updated 2/8/2011 7:36:59 PM ET 2011-02-09T00:36:59

President Barack Obama has finally done what millions of fellow Americans are still struggling to achieve — he's given up smoking.

  1. Other political news of note
    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California

"Yes, he has," his wife, Michelle, said Tuesday at the White House when asked whether he had conquered a nicotine habit that began as a teenager.

"It's been almost a year," she said, offering no details on exactly when or how he quit.

But is the breakup with tobacco final?

First Read: Kicking the habit

    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California
    6. Christie acknowledges federal subpoena
    7. Obama says Fox News's O'Reilly 'absolutely' unfair in extended interview
    8. Christie security officer hit with shoplifting charges
  1. More politics
    1. Obama's 2nd year
      AP
    2. Political Cartoons

One in five adults, or 46 million people, still smoke, and tens of millions more are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke. Although the smoking rate has dropped dramatically since 1964, when the first surgeon general's report declared tobacco deadly, progress has stalled in the past decade.

Obama, who has one of the world's most stressful jobs, has walked this tobacco road before. He announced in February 2008, during his presidential campaign, that he was quitting smoking — again.

"He's always wanted to stop," Mrs. Obama said Tuesday. She said he wants to be able to look daughters Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9, in the eye and deny that he smokes should they ask.

The issue of Obama's smoking last surfaced in December, when White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about it and said he had "not seen or witnessed evidence of any smoking in probably nine months." That timeline would put Obama's final cigarette puffs in March of last year.

At the time, Gibbs stopped short of asserting that Obama had quit completely.

The White House offered no details Tuesday, in keeping with its practice of trying to keep Obama's habit out of the spotlight.

Obama last addressed the question in June 2009.

Before signing a tough anti-smoking law designed to keep millions of teens from getting hooked, Obama ruefully admitted that he had spent his adult life trying to give up cigarettes.

At a news conference the following day he copped to sneaking an occasional puff.

"I constantly struggle with it," the president said. "Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes. Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No."

Obama said he didn't smoke in front of his kids or other family and had declared himself "95 percent cured." But he also acknowledged times "where I mess up."

"Once you've gone down this path, then it's something you continually struggle with," he said.

Obama has said he used to light up about five times a day, although stress sometimes drove him to smoke more often. He promised his wife he'd quit if she agreed he should run for president.

"I hate it," Michelle Obama told CBS' "60 Minutes" early in the campaign. "That's why he doesn't do it anymore, I'm proud to say. I outed him — I'm the one who outed him on the smoking."

She said one of her requirements for entering the race was that "he couldn't be a smoking president."

Based on her comments Tuesday, he is no longer that.

She said she was proud of him, but had not pressed him for details. "When somebody's doing the right thing I don't mess with them," Mrs. Obama said.

Obama has used nicotine gum in his quest to quit smoking. "I've been chewing Nicorette strenuously," he said in 2007. The White House physician urged him last year to stick with "smoking cessation efforts" — the use of nicotine gum.

  1. Most popular

During the presidential campaign, aides filled their pockets with the gum to help Obama control his urges. He occasionally bummed cigarettes from staff, while making sure to emphasize that he was trying to quit for good.

U.S. smoking rates have dropped dramatically since 1964 when the first surgeon general's report declared tobacco deadly, but progress has stalled in the past decade. The government had hoped to push the rate to 12 percent by last year, but the goal has been missed and pushed off till 2020.

Gibbs said Tuesday that a few White House aides, including trip director Marvin Nicholson, also had quit smoking. He suggested the president may have benefited from that too.

"When somebody decides to quit smoking, to try to overcome the physical addiction that they have, they do it not just because they want to but because others want them to, and because others around them give them the type of encouragement that they need to break what is, what is a tough habit to break," Gibbs said during his regular media briefing after being told of the first lady's comment.

___

Associated Press writers Ben Feller, Julie Pace and Erica Werner and Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Has President Obama taken his last puff?

  1. Closed captioning of: Has President Obama taken his last puff?

    >>> first lady michelle obama is marking the first anniversary of her drive to get america's kids to eat healthy and exercise. on this day there was a surprise revelation about one of the president's health habits. chuck todd with more on this tonight.

    >> reporter: the topic of the president's smoking has always made the white house uncomfortable, and the president himself squirm a bit uncomfortably. it's been a nagging question since his election.

    >> have you stopped smoking?

    >> how many cigarettes a day do you smoke alone or in the presence of other people?

    >> reporter: neither the president nor his staff have enjoyed answer the question.

    >> i don't see the need to get a lot more specific than to say it's a continuing struggle.

    >> you just think it's neat to ask me about my smoking.

    >> reporter: the standard answer has been, he's almost an ex-smoker, but not yet.

    >> i don't do it in front of my family, and -- i would say that i am 95% cured.

    >> reporter: it's a washington parlor game, where does he do it? on the white house grounds? the truman balcony, perhaps? or more likely the golf course ? the president's most frequent golfing companion is aide marvin nicholson who has also struggled with smoking. after the president's last physical, his doctor recommended he continued smoking cessation efforts.

    >> the president continues to chew nicotine gum.

    >> reporter: and apparently it's worked. first lady michelle obama told reporters the president hasn't smoked in a year. but it hasn't been easy. nobody has been more critical than mrs. obama. here she is on "60 minutes" way back in 2007 .

    >> please, america, watch. keep an eye on him and call me if you see him smoking.

    >> reporter: the president who first started smoking as a teenager, brian, clearly has been embarrassed by this habit. he hated to talk about it in off the record settings. but what helped this time according to robert gibbs is that close aides and a couple others have also quit with him. they've all been smoke free for a year.

    >> power in numbers. i guess the last dedicated smoker in the white house was fdr. it's been a long time. chuck todd , thanks.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments