June 14th, 2009
07:31 AM ET

Dear President Obama #146: Heal thyself

Reporter's Note: Each day I write a letter to President Obama. He said when he took office that he wanted to hear from Americans. So you might say he asked for it.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/06/12/tobacco.bill/art.obama.presser.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama, speaking to reporters Friday, said the tobacco bill was a 'long time coming.'"]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I noticed the headline about you wanting greater restrictions on cigarettes, and while I have no way to measure how much that would or would not work, I have to say that anything anyone can do to discourage Americans from lighting up, seems like a good idea. I’ve had way too many family members and friends die of cancer, with far too many of their cases connected to smoking, and I hate to imagine how many other families will face the same sad losses.

That said, and not to put too fine a point on it, but with truly the warmest and most heartfelt intentions: You need to quit. Cold turkey. Right now. Judging from what your press secretary has said, you have yet to completely kick your smoking habit, and you simply must. The damage you are doing to yourself is foolish and irreversible. You have a family to consider. You are a young man with a long life ahead. But all the exercise and doctors in the world can not fight off the effects of this terrible habit. If that’s not enough: It will hurt your basketball game.

I know it is incredibly hard. My dad stopped smoking after 40 years when a doctor told him he absolutely had to, and he said the craving remained for years afterward. But you have to do it. We all have habits that are hard to break. I love sweets and fried foods like some dogs love chewing on shoes. I struggle with controlling those urges. But there is this consolation (or excuse, depending on how you look at it): People do have to eat. No one has to smoke.

The generation before ours had a good excuse. The dangers of smoking were concealed and not widely understood by the public. Heck, some ads suggested it was actually good for you. Today, we know better and I am astonished when I see young people with cigarettes. While I respect the right of people to make their own choices, that does not keep me from seeing some choices as patently stupid.

And as long as you smoke, no matter how well you hide it, you are sending a quiet message to the people of our nation that you personally think it is OK. One day, despite your best efforts, a photo will emerge of you with a cigarette in your hands. I don’t think that should impugn your policies. We can’t say that simply because a President is unable to live up to an ideal that it is beyond the scope of American aspirations. And we can debate the rights or wrongs of government dictating such behaviors all we want.

But the best leaders lead by example. You don’t need a vote. You don’t need Congress, a podium, a poll, or a mandate. You just need to act. I’m giving you the same advice I would give to my best friend, or my worst enemy. Quit. Today.

Call any hour of any day when you are thinking about lighting up, and I’ll tell you a joke, read you a story, debate an issue, sing a song, give you a hundred reasons not to. Get all the help you need, but succeed.



Find more of the Foreman Letters, here.

soundoff (One Response)
  1. Fed Up

    Let's get real. The government doesn't want you to stop smoking, the loss of revenue would devastate them. Taxes on cigarettes are funding so many programs not even related to cigarettes. Cigarettes and Alcohol are an EXCUSE for taxes.

    June 15, 2009 at 8:50 am |