Struggling to quit for years, President Obama admitted Tuesday he still smokes now and then, and likened himself to an alcoholic who faces a lifetime battle to conquer an addiction. Obama's inability to go cold turkey has become a national human interest story.
Obama started smoking as a teen and became a closet smoker as his political career advanced. Now First Lady Michelle Obama demanded he quit smoking as a condition of her embracing his bid for the White House when he started considering a run in 2006.
Since then, there has been a fascination with how Obama's attempt to kick the habit is progressing, down to the Nicorette gum he chewed to curb his craving for a smoke.
Obama has been an artful dodger when it comes to being pressed about smoking. Last December, Tom Brokaw, on NBC's "Meet the Press", asked Obama about whether he has really quit.
"You know, I have, but what I said [in an earlier interview] was that, you know, there are times where I've fallen off the wagon," Obama replied.
Brokaw protested the answer, telling Obama, "Then that means you haven't stopped."
Replied Obama, "Well, the -- fair enough. What I would say is...that you will not see any violations of these rules in the White House."
To try to get some direct answers, Obama was asked several very specific questions during Tuesday's press conference -- coming a day after he signed a tough anti-smoking bill.
"How many cigarettes a day do you now smoke? Do you smoke alone or in the presence of other people? And do you believe the new law would help you to quit? If so, why?"
Obama, seemed annoyed and at first scolded the journalist who asked the question, McClatchy reporter Margaret Talev.
"Well, the -- first of all, the new law that was put in place is not about me. It's about the next generation of kids coming up. So I think it's fair, Margaret, to just say that you just think it's neat to ask me about my smoking, as opposed to it being relevant to my new law. But that's fine. I understand. It's a interesting human -- it's a interesting human-interest story."
Then Obama decided to give an update.
"Look, I've said before that as a former smoker, I constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes. The -- am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No. I don't do it in front of my kids. I don't do it in front of my family. And you know, I would say that I am 95 percent cured. But there are times where -- there are times where I mess up. And I mean, I've said this before."
Said Obama, "I get this question about once every month or so. And you know, I don't know what to tell you, other than the fact that, you know, like folks who go to AA, you know, once you've gone down this path, then you know, it's something you continually struggle with, which is precisely why the legislation we signed was so important, because what we don't want is kids going down that path in the first place."