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Obama milestone: Nine months without a cigarette

Every day's a struggle, though, and he still chews nicotine gum.

December 10, 2010|By Peter Nicholas, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — White House victories are rare these days, but President Obama can claim solid progress in his lonely battle to quit smoking.

The president has gone nine months without sneaking a cigarette, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reported Thursday.

Every day is a struggle and there's no guarantee the president won't light up tomorrow, it seems. Still, for a president who has been trying to quit for years, the nine-month hiatus is a welcome sign that he's breaking the addiction.

Obama still chews nicotine gum, which his doctors have advised. In a physical he had in March, Obama was pronounced fit but told to "continue smoking cessation efforts." It was about the time of that medical exam that Obama smoked his last cigarette, according to the timetable laid out by Gibbs.

Smoking "is not something that he's proud of," Gibbs said at the daily White House media briefing. "He knows that it's not good for him. He doesn't like it. He doesn't like children to know about it, obviously, including his."

Dr. Regina Benjamin, the U.S. surgeon general, said in an interview that she was encouraged by Obama's success.

"I want to say that it's just as important that your teenager stop smoking as it is for the president to stop smoking. Every person should stop," she said.

Quitting smoking is tough under any circumstances, but even more so when one is leading the free world. During North Korean provocations and WikiLeaks document dumps, hardly a day goes by when a smoker might not be tempted to light up.

"I think he would tell you even when in the midst of a tax agreement and a START [nuclear treaty] deal, and all the other things that accumulate, that even where he might have once found some comfort in that, he's pushed it away,'' Gibbs said.

Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who smoked off and on for 25 years and tried to quit while he was in office, said Obama needed to quit for good.

"When the pressure got on and the heat got strong, I would find some excuse to smoke a cigarette," Roemer said in an interview. "I battled it the whole time. And I urge the president to do the same thing. Not only is he an example, but it's important for his health as well. There's no excuse for him to smoke. None."

peter.nicholas@latimes.com

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