WASHINGTON – Of all the things President-elect Barack Obama needs right now, one of them surely isn't a new set of lofty expectations on his well-burdened shoulders. But recent attention to Obama's on-and-off smoking habit has pinned a new kind of audacious hope to him. Anti-smoking advocates are counting on Obama as a role model for others trying to kick the habit, showing them — and himself — that while it's hard, all things are indeed possible in America.
More pressure? One imagines the very thought might send Obama back to the privacy of his yard to light up. In seriousness, though, his familiar plight — a former smoker who says he's quit, but admittedly falls off the wagon — is potentially "the ultimate teachable moment," as one anti-smoking advocate puts it.
"It's a wonderful opportunity," says Cheryl Healton, president of the American Legacy Foundation, a Washington-based group that seeks to prevent smoking among young people. "The president-elect is in a position to help people understand that it's difficult to quit, and to encourage the 43 million adult Americans who smoke to join him in his efforts."
Obama can perhaps thank Tom Brokaw for renewing the chatter about his smoking habit. On NBC's "Meet the Press," Brokaw noted Obama had "ducked" the smoking question previously, and asked if he'd indeed quit, noting the White House is a no-smoking zone. (And Obama has his incoming secretary of state, former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, to thank for THAT.)
Really with all of the shit that's going on in America this is an issue? The ultimate teaching moment would be cleaning up Bush's mess and if Obama lights up once or thrice while doing so...so be it. The Anti-smoking lobby are not on the Count's Christmas list.
The two worst lobbies in the world are the smokers and the anti-smokers. Followed closely behind by the calorie counters.