President Barack Obama casually lied about his smoking Monday at the United Nations in a hot mic moment. The news quickly went viral, but few commentators have noted that Obama was flagrantly misstating his smoking history.
The president said he hasn’t had a cigarette “probably six years,” but according to multiple well documented news reports he was still smoking as of at least late 2009 or early 2010.
“That’s because I’m scared of my wife,” Obama joked to a Maina Kiai, U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights. Obama brought up the smoking in the conversation asking the official if he still smoked. (Related: Obama quit smoking because he’s afraid of Michelle [VIDEO])
Despite his claim to having had a cigarette in six years, Obama had one at least as recently as February 2010, according to Dr. Jeffrey Kuhlman, who performed a physical and who was quoted in the New York Times on Feb. 28, 2010.
In December 2010, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama hadn’t had a cigarette in nine months.
Michelle Obama initially asked Americans to watch out and to try to catch her husband smoking on the campaign trail in 2008 but she gave him a pass for smoking in March 2010.
“I’ve never been a smoker so I can’t relate, but people who’ve smoked say like anything, you have dips and valleys, and to try to quit smoking in one of the most stressful times of the nation’s history is sort of like, you know, okay, he’s going to struggle a little bit. This may be the year he’ll struggle,” the First Lady told Politico’s Nia-Malika Henderson in March 2010.
When trying to sell Obamacare in 2009, Obama admitted that he occasionally had a smoke. While pushing for passage of health care reform in 2009, he admitted that he still struggled with cigarettes and has continued to smoke on occasion as president.
“I’ve said before that as a former smoker I constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes. Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No,” he said at a press conference in 2009.
“I don’t do it in front of my kids,” the president argued. “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.”
Obama’s smoking has taken on political dimensions, thanks to the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, which begins early enrollment on Oct. 1.
According to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, a smoker would be charged significantly more money, especially the working poor.
A 50-year-old, low-income smoker making $15,000 would be quoted an annual premium of about $8,100, including a whopping $2,700 tobacco surcharge. The federal low-income subsidy would bring his premium down to about $3,000.
Obama has also pushed a punitive doubling of the federal tobacco tax to fund his universal pre-K plan but because smoking has declined the program would quickly run out of revenue. (Related: Obama’s plan to fund pre-K will run itself out of money)