November 5, 2017: What is Up With Presidents’ Smoking Habits?

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A Brief History

On November 5, 2017, with President Donald J. Trump under fire from all sides (often including us!), we take this opportunity to congratulate him on setting a fine example to the youth of America by neither smoking nor drinking alcohol.  Nor does he use illegal drugs.  Our previous President, Barack Obama, was criticized for being a smoker, a terrible example for impressionable youngsters that could conceivably chose to smoke with the excuse that, “Hey, the President does!”

Digging Deeper

Yes, Barack Hussein Obama smoked, although he tried to keep it out of public view and promised to quit.  His brand?  Marlboro Reds.  While in office, Obama and his wife both claimed he had quit smoking, and Obama was reported to chew nicotine laced gum as an alternative to smoking.  Obama had earlier admitted smoking marijuana as a youngster, as well as doing cocaine, which is not exactly the best message for kids!  (“Hey, why not smoke weed and snort coke?  Maybe I’ll grow up to be President!”)

Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush was a known alcohol abuser prior to gaining high office, including a DUI in 1976, and he admits to being a smoker for “about 9 years.”  Other reports relate stories of him smoking in the White House along with his wife, Laura.  Bush claimed he had used dipping snuff as an alternate to cigarettes (not a safe alternative!) and then switched to chewing tobacco as a way to quit using snuff.  Bush was coy about his answers to questions of marijuana and cocaine use, but the strong implication is that he used both drugs prior to getting elected Governor and President.

“Slick Willie” Bill Clinton was the  first US President to admit to having smoked marijuana, though he claimed he “did not inhale” (nobody believes this) and that he “didn’t like it.”  He smoked cigars while President of the US, including ones marinated in… (we will not talk about this incident in our family oriented website!).  John F. Kennedy was another cigar smoker as well, having quit cigarettes earlier.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was a rich elite, so his smoking cigarettes was with the aid of a foppish looking cigarette holder.  FDR was the last President to smoke publicly, but his heirs to the Oval Office were mostly smokers as well.  An exception was Harry S Truman, who mostly lived outside of the White House while it was being renovated, probably to remove the smoke residue!  Truman reported being beaten by his dad when little Harry tried a smoke, and never tried another.  Jimmy Carter is another of the non-smoking Presidents.

Dwight Eisenhower was a smoker, and Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan were all at one time or another smokers of cigarettes and or pipes.  Reagan even did ads for Chesterfield cigarettes!  (No, not as President!  Before that…)  Richard Nixon quit smoking cigarettes prior to assuming the Presidency, though he probably smoked cigars while in office.  I could find no reports of George HW Bush smoking or using tobacco.

Prior to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the social ramifications of smoking by a President or otherwise using tobacco were not anything like they are today.  The percentage of Americans that smoked or used some form of tobacco was much higher as you go back in time (42% of American adults in 1965, only 19% in 2010).  Overall, about 61% of American Presidents used tobacco of one type or another.  Another 11 are known or rumored to have used marijuana, including some of the Founding Fathers (George Washington!) and it will be interesting to see what happens in the White House when marijuana is totally legalized in the United States!

Question for students (and subscribers): Do you think a US President should abstain from tobacco as an example to our youth?  Give us your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

Below are some of the sites researched for this article:

  1. “A Complete Guide to the US Presidents and Their Drug and Alcohol Use”,
  2. Mattthew Alice, “How many presidents stank up the White House with cigarette smoke?”,
  3. Carl Sferrzza Anthony, “Our Presidents and Cigars”,

For more information, please see…

Fashion Poster.  President John F Kennedy Smoking Archival Custom Poster 20×30 Inch (50cmx75cm).  tvheferg.


About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.