Herman Cain said Sunday that smoking cigarettes "is not a cool thing to do" and denied that a web ad recently released by his campaign was meant to glamorize or glorify cigarette smoking.
Cain, in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," continued to defend the ad, which features his campaign manager Mark Block taking a long drag from a cigarette - and said the ad was meant to be "informative."
"One of the themes within this campaign is, let Herman be Herman," he told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "Mark Block is a smoker. We say, let Mark be Mark. That's all we're trying to say because we believe, let people be people."
"This wasn't intended to send any subliminal signal whatsoever," he told Schieffer.
"It does - it sends a signal that it is cool to smoke," suggested Schieffer.
"No, it does not," Cain replied. "Mark Block smokes. That's all that ad says. We have a lot of people in this country that smoke. But what I respect about Mark as a smoker, who is my chief of staff, he never smokes around me or smokes around anyone else. He goes outside."
"He smokes on television!" said Schieffer.
"Well, he smokes on television. But that was no other subliminal message," Cain said.
When asked if he thought the ad was meant to be "funny," Cain said his campaign "didn't know whether it would be funny to some people or whether they were going to ignore it or whatever the case may be."
"It's not funny to me - I am a cancer survivor, like you," Schieffer said. "I had cancer that was smoking related. I don't think it serves the country well - and this is an editorial opinion here - to be showing someone smoking a cigarette. You're the frontrunner now. It seems to me as frontrunner you would have a responsibility not to take that kind of a tone in this campaign. I would suggest that perhaps as the frontrunner, you'd want to raise the level of the campaign."
"We will do that, Bob," Cain responded. "I do respect your objection to the ad. Probably about 30 percent of the feedback was very similar to yours. It was not intended to offend anyone. Being a cancer survivor myself, I am sensitive to that sort of thing."
When asked if he would take the ad down, Cain replied, "It's impossible to do now. Once you put it on the Internet it goes viral. We could take it off of our website, but there are other sites that have already picked it up. It's nearly impossible to erase that ad from the Internet."
But Cain did agree to say to young people watching not to smoke, as Schieffer suggested.
"Young people of America, all people, do not smoke. It is hazardous and it's dangerous to your health. Don't smoke. I've never smoked and I have encouraged people not to smoke," Cain said.
Still, Cain emphasized that he has no problem with his staff members - or anyone else - smoking.
"I'm not a smoker. But I don't have a problem if that's his choice," Cain said.According to The New York Times, Cain, while serving as president of the National Restaurant Association, joined cigarette makers in fighting restaurant smoking bans.