Michael Kinsley thinks that he hasn’t quit smoking at all:
Obama has never denied that he was a smoker for much of his adult life. He said as early as February 2007 that he had promised his wife he would quit in order to run for president. He also admitted as recently as this June — when his presidential campaign was about three-quarters over — that he hadn’t done so. In May the Obama campaign released a carefully worded letter from his doctor, who wrote that Obama’s “own history included intermittent cigarette smoking. He has quit this practice on several occasions and is currently using Nicorette gum with success.” Obama has declined to amplify.
The instructions on Nicorette say to stop smoking before starting with the gum and to stop using the gum after 12 weeks. We know, because he has said as much, that Obama was still smoking the month after his doctor said he was using the gum. And even if he smoked his last cigarette on May 28, the day before his doctor said he was on gum therapy, the 12 weeks would have elapsed Aug. 20. Wouldn’t you think that some reporter since then would have asked Obama whether the gum had worked? Yet no one seems to have asked.
The time limit on these sorts of drugs are, from what I understand, reasonably flexible. It’s likely that if the cravings haven’t stopped then he’s not 100% free and clear. Maybe he’s a Jed Bartlet pittance smoker who plans to keep chewing gum until it’s out of his system. Or maybe, as John Tierney suggests, he will not (or should never) stop taking the gum at all:
But there’s also another nicotine risk I’d like to discuss here at the Lab. What if the nicotine gum strategy is so successful that Mr. Obama is capable of weaning himself from nicotine altogether? If he reaches the White House, should he give up the chemical that he relied on during his career and his campaign? As a fellow Nicorette chewer, I wonder if nicotine deserves some of the credit for Mr. Obama’s remarkable serenity and endurance throughout this endless campaign.
He’s concerned a bit about the effects of a president in withdrawal and thinks that Obama should take a pledge to take Nicorette for the next four or eight years.
Ron Rosenbaum thinks he should be able to smoke in the White House:
The White House, of course, has been a butt-free zone since the Clinton administration. That pack of Marlboro Reds he’s kept stashed under a bush in the Rose Garden, hoping it’ll be camouflaged? Out of reach. The only thing that looks like a butt is, well, a button, and it’s looking good. Why not reach for it? Then he won’t have to put up any longer with the insane puritanical rules imposed by those who don’t know, will never know, the knife-edge of nicotine desire.
Do you want to die because President Obama is dying for a smoke? It’s true that smoking would be bad for our 44th president, who’s been trying to kick the habit. Lung cancer caused by smoking is a major cause of death in America. Even secondhand smoke is deadly, we’re told. But how about secondhand radioactive plutonium? Might that turn out to be a major cause of death (for those not already dead in a nuclear exchange)? Do I have to answer that?
OK, so Obama isn’t going to start a nuclear war because of the well-meaning but counterproductive no-smoking rule. At least, I hope he isn’t. I don’t smoke, but I know smokers, and I know smokers trying to quit, and they scare me.
I think that to some extent this all depends on the nature of the addiction. I have no illusions that I am not chemically addicted myself, though I do think that the biggest hurdle for me is the psychological addiction. The oral fixation combined with a need to excise myself from life in seven minute increments. That’s why stress is such a big issue because when I’m stressed that’s when I most need to get away for a bit. Leave my cubicle. Step outside. Collect my thoughts. The chemical effects are not insignificant as I cannot smoke ultra-lights, but I think that a lot of it is psychological because when I was a kid I would behave with notable similarity when I’d go out back and shoot baskets. It’s unlikely that President Obama would be able to do either (though the imagery of a president shooting baskets on the balcony of the White House is awesome), so maybe the chemicals and the gum will be sufficient.