WASHINGTON -- Judging from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs' roundabout answer Friday, one can conclude that President Obama still might occasionally sneak a smoke -- even though smoking is not allowed in the White House.
The question about Obama's struggle to quit smoking came up at Friday's White House briefing as Obama applauded Congress for sending him a bill giving the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco.
"We've known for years, even decades, about the harmful, addictive and often deadly effects of tobacco products,'' Obama said in the Rose Garden.
When Obama was mulling a presidential run and trying to get wife Michelle on board, he said she demanded he quit smoking if he got in the race. Obama had tried to hide his smoking while he was a senator. Last December, Tom Brokaw on NBC's "Meet the Press" asked Obama directly if he had stopped smoking.
"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."
Fast forward to Friday, when Gibbs was asked "if smoking continues to be a struggle for the president?"
He replied, "I think the president would likely tell you, as I think many -- anybody would that has smoked or been addicted to smoking -- that it is a lifelong struggle."
Another reporter tried again, more directly. "Do you know, does President Obama still sometimes smoke?"
"Again, I would simply tell you I think it's a -- struggling with nicotine addiction is something that happens every day."
During the campaign, Obama chewed Nicorette, a gum designed to curb tobacco cravings. Asked if Obama were still on Nicorette, Gibbs said, "I assume so, yes."