- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

After plenty of huffing about puffing, President Obama admitted Tuesday that he still sometimes smokes cigarettes, declaring his habit “95 percent cured.”

Mr. Obama cleared the air on a question that’s been lingering in the White House briefing room for days - does he still sneak a smoke here and there?

“Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No,” he said. “There are times when I mess up.”

The question came one day after Mr. Obama signed a sweeping new law that regulates tobacco companies and their marketing to children.

Mr. Obama, known to chew Nicorette gum, first scolded the McClatchy reporter - a former smoker herself - who asked the question but then said he understands it’s a human interest story.

“I don’t do it in front of my kids, I don’t do it in front of my family,” he said during a press conference. “I constantly struggle with it.”

The Democrat’s smoking habit has been a topic of speculation for years, since his wife, Michelle Obama, made him promise to give up cigarettes if he was going to run for president.

“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,” Mr. Obama told the Chicago Tribune in February 2007.

Former first lady Laura Bush was a recovered smoker, but friends have reportedly said she would sneak a cigarette here and there.

Mr. Obama acknowledged before taking office that he knew smoking is not allowed on White House grounds, telling NBC, “You will not see any violations of these rules in the White House.”

On Tuesday, the president compared himself to people who go to Alcoholics Anonymous and added, “Once you’ve gone down this path … it’s something you continually struggle with.”

Mr. Obama added that’s “precisely why the legislation we signed was so important,” saying he does not want children “going down that path in the first place.”

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