Monday, February 05, 2007

Who was the last cigarette smoker to be President of the United States?

Who's asking: Bill Walsh, Washington, D.C.

Bill asks this question in light of the recent revelation that Senator Barack Obama smokes. I admire Senator Obama a great deal, and must admit that news of his smoking came as a jolt; I had a hard time remembering the last time I saw a national political figure smoking a cigarette.

Bill Clinton notoriously had his cigars, and Gerald Ford was known to smoke at least half-a-dozen pipes a day -- but you have to go all the way back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt to find an active cigarette box in the Oval Office. Harry Truman, an opponent of smoking, banned cigarettes from the White House. Dwight Eisenhower had rolled his own during the Second World War, but quit cold turkey before taking office as President. Jackie Kennedy smoked cigarettes, but JFK smoked cigars, and LBJ quit his three-pack-a-day habit after a 1955 heart attack almost killed him. Richard Nixon smoked pipes and cigars, but not cigarettes. Jimmy Carter smoked the occasional cigar. Ronald Reagan quit smoking before becoming President, and I seem to remember that the famous jelly beans on his desk were supposed to be a substitute.

Hillary Rodham Clinton declared the White House a smoke-free zone in 1993. I'd be delighted to find out that she's a closet smoker; it would make her about 1000% more sympathetic, in my eyes. Give me scoundrels over self-righteousness any day.

Speaking of reformed scoundrels -- not that we were, but I needed some feeble segue -- did everyone see Prince on the Super Bowl halftime show last night? A religious experience. It gave me chills, and inspired my question for tomorrow.


Peggy & Scott said...

Good question. Obama smokes??!!!!! I can't picture it.
Right on about Prince he was awsome! Meg was rockin' out... she broke out some new moves just for him!

Bill said...

Thanks! And FDR, of course, had the great cigarette holder, a la The Penguin.

BTW, I believe Hillary's precedent has been broken by Laura Bush.

AnswerGirl said...

Right, I forgot Laura Bush was a secret smoker!

Anonymous said...

Reagan quit smoking, yes, but he did major magazine ads for cigarettes! I think it was Chesterfield. Great posters.... these different periods of peoples' lives make life itself more interesting. Change.


PS Check out the web site, has been updated and has and will have more neat things. And there's the party, March 15. See you?

Steve Ettlinger said...

OOOPS -- I did not sign properly.


Anonymous said...

I have a pack of cigarettes and matches that I inherited from my father that were supposedly given to him by President Gerald Ford at a country club in California. They both have the Presidential seal on them.