Barack Obama has quit smoking. Mostly. As he told Tom Brokaw in a Dec. 7 Meet the Press interview, he has "fallen off the wagon" occasionally. Oh, all right: When pressed, Obama said he'd "done a terrific job under the circumstances" of keeping up a healthy lifestyle. He has vowed not to break the current White House ban on smoking, but if Obama takes his nicotine addiction with him to the Oval Office, he'll have distinguished (if smelly) company.
According to Cigar Aficionado, nearly half of all U.S. Presidents smoked. Ulysses S. Grant never shook the cigar habit he picked up during the Civil War. William McKinley had a similar love of stogies, but like Obama, he never allowed himself to be photographed in the act. Theodore Roosevelt barred his daughter Alice from smoking in the White House, so she took her habit to the roof. Calvin Coolidge was known to offer cigars to Congressmen after White House breakfasts.
Although Dwight Eisenhower quit his wartime four-pack-a-day habit before taking office, smoking in the residence was still common, with ashtrays on the tables at state dinners and free cigarettes for guests. Lyndon Johnson quit before taking office, as did Ronald Reagan, who nonetheless didn't mind if visitors smoked. When French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac lit up in the Oval Office, Reagan's personal secretary recalled, a china dish was quickly found to serve as an ashtray.
But by the time Yitzhak Rabin arrived at the White House in 1993 to negotiate the Oslo accords, smoking was banned, and he found himself shooed into the cold outdoors for smoke breaks--a fate Obama risks as well. The person who imposed that ban--former First Lady Hillary Clinton--is his nominee for Secretary of State.