Obama to Quit -- Smoking, That Is

ByABC News
February 7, 2007, 9:36 AM

Feb. 7, 2007 — -- When Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., officially enters the stressful world of presidential politics this Saturday, he will be trying his hardest to resist the urge to smoke those Marlboro Red cigarettes he has relied upon for years.

Instead, he has pledged to his wife, Michelle, that he will chew Nicorette gum.

Before the Run, Obama Needs to Quit

Obama may face several daunting challengers in the months to come -- Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., a prying media, a conservative attack machine and the tricky politics of race. But none may prove as mighty a foe as his nicotine habit.

"I've never been a heavy smoker," Obama told the Chicago Tribune. "I've quit periodically over the last several years. I've got an ironclad demand from my wife that in the stresses of the campaign I don't succumb. I've been chewing Nicorette strenuously."

Obama aides say that the main reason Michelle Obama has been pushing so hard for her husband to quit the demon weed is for health reasons, but of course for any public figure, one also has to factor in the image of the habit -- either out of concerns he would be setting a bad example, or that he may turn off some voters.

An unscientific sampling of men and women on the street indicates that the public wants him to quit, though they do not consider a cigarette habit to be a disqualification for office, however much cigarettes have been linked to cancer, heart disease and impotence.

"Serving as a role model for the rest of the country," remarked one woman. "Yeah, I think he needs to quit smoking if he is going to run for president."

Added Sue Wycoff of St. Paul, Minn., "having a daughter who died from lung cancer, we kind of feel strongly that smoking is not smart."

"But he's got two years to become a reformed smoker," chimed in her husband, Peter. "And those are the most adamant people."

"And he is not an alcoholic," added Sue. "That would be worse."