Dealing with a shaky economy: Very difficult.
Looking to overhaul a messy American health care system: Very difficult.
Dealing with the Muslim world and the Arab Street: Very difficult.
Quitting smoking: Perhaps too difficult.
In June, President Barack Obama signed strong legislation aimed at preventing a new generation of smokers from getting hooked. The law, in part, limits flavorings for cigarettes that are all but certainly targeted to young smokers. Hey, once the nicotine addiction kicks in, they can be flavored like the nether end of a skunk, and most folks will still keep smoking them.
Our current president has fought a quiet and personal war against nicotine addiction. It was supposed to be a campaign promise – to his wife, no less – that were he to run for president, he’d put the Marlboro Man out to pasture.
Though there’s no official word from the White House, we suspect that the lack of information speaks volumes. We don’t believe Obama has entirely kicked his long-standing habit.
Obama is an effective model for just how difficult a nicotine addiction is to defeat. He certainly has a high degree of stress in his job, and any smoker will tell you that, whatever the actual physiological effects of smoking might be, the act has a calming effect. That wouldn’t be the case for a nonsmoker; it is inarguably the case if one smokes.
The decision to quit smoking must be a personal one, and it must be stronger than the addiction itself. Even then, it doesn’t always work. We know of people scared into quitting due to health crisis. We know others who risked death in more than one way by inhaling cigarette smoke and oxygen simultaneously. We know of one recent case where the motivation was the recent tax increase that raised the price of the least-expensive cigarettes beyond the $4 mark. That was the breaking point – the anger at the cost (and the taxation) that put one smoker over the line and into the ranks of former smokers. Nine days on nicotine gum and then cold turkey. So far, so good for the last 11 weeks.
It’s not unusual – at least historically – for presidents to smoke. It was a different world a few generations ago. Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin Roosevelt all smoked. Nor is it unusual among other world leaders of the past. Try to imagine Winston Churchill without his cigar; it’s almost impossible to do so.
But this is a world in which we’re supposed to know better. It’s also a world in which a lot of programs are underwritten by the spiraling amount of taxes collected on the products. It’s a world of mixed messages as well.
Just because the wise and the powerful of the past did it, and just because our current president might (well, likely does) do it, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. You know all the warnings; all the reasons not to do so. As adults, we make our own choices. We certainly support legislation to prevent those who are underage from being more easily seduced into an addictive, expensive and potentially deadly lifestyle choice.
We can say that Obama would be better off to get completely away from cigarettes, but we can’t fault him greatly if he occasionally hits up one of his staffers for a coffin nail. Many of us have been there.
Editor’s Note: This editorial originally appeared in the Lebanon Daily News in Pennsylvania. It was reprinted here with permission from The Associated Press. The views expressed in the editorial are not necessarily those of the South Florida Times.