The addict in chief?

Covering Obama’s signature of the misguided FDA tobacco bill, columnist Marie Cocco refers to the president as a “poster addict” for the anti-smoking movement:

Obama should be neither annoyed nor embarrassed that he keeps getting asked — about “once every month or so,” he says — about his struggle with cigarettes. He happens to be, hands-down, the best possible spokesman for the new FDA regulation. He should embrace the role.

The president should make public service announcements describing his addiction to cigarettes, which he began smoking as a teenager, and his so-far-failed efforts to completely snuff them out. Because after all, if such a smart, smooth and incontestably successful man is having such trouble quitting, what hope is there for the average American who has no worries about a prying press or the negative aura of a nicotine-stained image?

What hope indeed. Never mind the fact that there are about as many former smokers in the United States (45.9 million) as there are current smokers (45.4 million) according to the CDC. Somehow millions of Americans lacking Obama’s superpowers have managed to kick the habit. So what are we to make of Obama’s continued smoking? Cocco has one explanation:

Recovering his equanimity, the president explained that he’s “95 percent cured” from smoking, doesn’t smoke in front of his family and doesn’t light up every day. In short, he is a closet smoker — just like millions of Americans who are trying to quit, whose families are dismayed that they haven’t, and who risk public opprobrium when they admit they’re still tethered to tobacco.

This is the line political correctness, and perhaps his wife, forces Obama to go along with. Is it any wonder he gets snappy with reporters who keep asking him about his habit? As a famously cool and collected president, this constant portrayal as a weak-willed addict must be terribly grating.

But what if he’s not an addict? He’s reportedly not smoking every day despite having one of the most stressful jobs in the world. When he takes those occasional furtive smoke breaks, is he racked with guilt and shame? Or does he secretly enjoy it, a welcome respite from the demands of being president? Perhaps rather than being a model addict, he is a model of moderation, a man who has successfully reduced his consumption to a level he personally finds appropriate. I don’t pretend to know, but if having a smoke every few days does make him happy, in today’s environment he couldn’t possibly tell us.

Comments

  1. sirius says:

    If he has found a balance in smoking, maybe he shouldn’t have signed the bill that restricts our freedom to smoke and will have a negative economic impact. Either let us smoke flavored cigarettes or outlaw it. I dislike the fact that the government thinks it knows what is better for us than we do ourselves…we are legislating something to prevent ‘kids’ from getting them but kids aren’t supposed to be able to buy them anyway. So either previous legislation is not being enforced properly or this is merely another example of government the babysitter. And while I don’t have a problem with Obama smoking, is anyone surprised that a bunch of people are giving him a free pass?Some great quotes in here about it:
    http://www.newsy.com/videos/the_800_lb_cigarette_in_the_room

  2. Ben says:

    William Saletan in Slate had an interesting article a couple of days ago, favorably contrasting the tobacco bill with the “War on Drugs.” I’d be curious to see your response to it.

    The biggest importance of the tobacco bill to me is that it included (totally unrelated) provisions changing federal employees’ retirement system. Gotta love Congress.

  3. Jeff says:

    If Jed Bartlet can smoke, so can Obama.

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