White House: Obama Fighting Urge to Smoke

President Obama leaves after making a statement to reporters after his meeting with Democratic congressional leaders on a year-end bipartisan agreement to extend expiring tax cuts, at the White House, Dec. 6, 2010. AP Photo

Updated 2:46 p.m. Eastern Time

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged President Obama's smoking habit Thursday -- but said the president has resisted the urge to have a cigarette since March despite the pressures of his job.

"I have not seen or witnessed evidence of him smoking in probably nine months," Gibbs told reporters. He said Mr. Obama has discussed with him his struggles with kicking the habit.

"This is not something that he's proud of, he knows that it's not good for him, he...doesn't like children to know about it, including his," Gibbs said. "And I think he has worked extremely hard, and I think he would tell you even when it the midst of the tax agreement and the START deal and all the other things that accumulate, even where he might have once found some comfort in that he's pushed it away."

"He understands it's dangerous and has done a lot of extraordinary work to wrestle with that habit, as millions of Americans have," Gibbs added.

At a press conference last June, Mr. Obama described himself as a "former smoker" who occasionally falls "off the wagon."

"I would say that I am 95 percent cured, but there are times where, there are times where I mess up," he said. Mr. Obama vowed not to smoke inside the White House before taking office.

Asked at the press briefing Thursday how Mr. Obama has been able to fight the urge to smoke in recent months, Gibbs responded, "he's stubborn." He later said he believes that Mr. Obama is continuing to chew nicotine gum.

The press secretary stopped short of saying the president had quit, though he said "he's quit for those nine months."

Gibbs added that Mr. Obama knows that smoking is not "in his best interest or his health, and he's thought about that for quite some time." 

The issue was raised because of the release of a new Surgeon General's report finding that even an occasional cigarette is dangerous.

Gibbs was also asked if anyone in the White House has taken up smoking, prompting laughter from the press corps. "I don't know of anybody who has started smoking," he replied.

Gibbs added later that he was hesitant to discuss the issue on camera because he does not want to do anything that might encourage his son or others to smoke. He noted that his father had been a smoker until he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Brian Montopoli is senior political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.