A reformed smoker, Margaret Talev of McClatchy Newspapers, today asked President Obama about his struggle kicking the habit.
“As a former smoker, I understand the frustration and the fear that comes with quitting,” she said. “But with the new law that you signed yesterday regulating the tobacco industry, I’d like to ask you a few questions…How many cigarettes a day do you now smoke? Do you smoke alone or in the presence of other people?”
Talev also asked if the law President Obama signed Monday “should help you to quit? If so, why?”
Monday’s law grants authority over tobacco products to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, bans all cigarettes from having candy, fruit, and spice flavors as their characterizing flavors, to take effect this October. In addition, the law will stop youth-based marketing such as tobacco manufacturers sponsoring sporting, athletic, and entertainment events using tobacco product brand names and logos, or giving away clothing bearing the brand name or logo of a tobacco product.
President Obama underlined that “the new law that was put in place is not about me. It’s about the next generation of kids coming up.”
The president dismissed the legitimacy of the question in a way, saying “I think it’s fair, Margaret, to just say that you just think it’s neat to ask me about my smoking as opposed to it being relevant to my new law. But that’s fine. I understand… It’s an interesting human interest story.”
The president then added that “as a former smoker I constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes.”
Continuing, the president said, “am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No.”
“I don’t do it in front of my kids,” he said. “I don’t do it in front of my family. And, you know, I would say that I am 95 percent cured.”
But, he allowed, “there are times where I mess up. And I mean, I’ve said this before. I get this question about once every month or so. And, you know, I don’t know what to tell you, other than the fact that, you know, like folks who go to A.A., you know, once you’ve gone down this path, then, you know, it’s something you continually struggle with, which is precisely why the legislation we signed was so important, because what we don’t want is kids going down that path in the first place.”