During yesterday’s press conference, the President’s struggle to stop smoking came up.

“You just think it’s neat to ask me about my smoking as opposed to it being relevant to my new law,” he said, “That’s fine. I understand. It’s an interesting human interest story.”

The president refers to himself a “former smoker” but admitted that “there are times where I mess up.” He reportedly made a campaign promise to his wife Michelle that he would quit once elected.

“Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? ‘No.’ ” he said at a news conference Tuesday adding he didn’t smoke in front of his two daughters. “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,” he said.

Apparently he bums cigs on occasion from staffers and chews nicorette regularly, which seems to be helping according to his physician.

My grandfather smoked, which was controversial in the family. I remember as a kid extending a hand to touch a pack of his cigarettes out of curiosity and one of those invisible voices that black kids know about — how do they know — called out from sounded like the floor below that I’d better not even think about it!

His smoking was as controversial as the rare times Grandpa would cook up a plate of chicken necks and rice. I remember this one time when I was like 8, he cooked up a big batch despite my grandmother’s strong disapproval and ate it in front of us. My grandmother was of the opinion that food like chicken necks was unwholesome, slavery-based, “nigger food” that no child should ever experience. Naturally my little brother and I watched in fascination as my grandfather defended himself: “It’s just once in awhile!” And tried to avoid eye contact with us. At one point, while he was audibly sucking on one, eyes rolling back in his head with delight, then correcting himself since we were also sitting at the kitchen table, still watching him intently – eyes wide. My grandmother was standing fuming in the doorway at the violation of her kitchen and informed us with hands on hips when we asked if we could taste one that we would never eat anything like that, if she had anything to say about it. After that, sometimes we’d smell it, but we never saw him eat necks n’ rice in front of us again.

And it’s true: no chicken neck to my knowledge has ever passed my lips. I’m sure that Obama hopes to say the same about Malia, Sasha and cigarettes. My grandfather’s cigarette and chicken neck habit led to an early death in his 60s from cancer. It’s not uncommon sadly for black men to die early – it’s one of the many failures of our healthcare system.

Barack Obama has a job that’s got to be crazy stressful. I can’t even imagine what kind of experience or news drove him to ask for a cigarette. As a (half) black man, he’s statistically likely to have health issues that cigarettes only exacerbate: heart disease, diabetes, stroke, certain kinds of cancer. I’m sure he knows all about that and doesn’t want to model bad behavior to the kids of the nation. However, I reckon that his greasy cheeseburger cravings might be equivalent to my grandfather’s illicit chicken neck desires.

Still, all addictions serve to suppress the difficult emotions that we are afraid to feel. I have struggled with an addiction to chocolate — don’t laugh! Given the history of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke in my family, that much fat and sugar together is as deadly to me as a cigarette. I know that it’s a pacifier.

Obama’s shown that he can channel his emotions to powerful persuasion. I’d challenge him the next time he wants a cigarette to pause and truly experience whatever it is he’s trying to get away from. The emotions that emerge may just be able to make the difference that will improve the lives of millions if he can stay clear-headed.

It’s not easy being a black man in this society — even and especially if you’re president. I feel for a brother, I really do. A friend of mine who struggled with heroin abuse told me that smoking was much harder to kick than smack. That’s why the recent legislation that Obama signed is so important. Now other kids won’t be a victim to the Tobacco Man and hopefully this strong legislation – so long in coming – will save lives in the future:

Barack Obama admitted that on Monday, the same day he signed the nation’s toughest anti-smoking law, which, above all else, will be aimed at keeping teens from smoking.

The historic legislation gives the Food and Drug Administration unprecedented authority to regulate what goes into tobacco products, as well as the authority to make public the ingredients.

Also, and most notably, it will prohibit marketing campaigns that are aimed at children.

That’s being a good dad.

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