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Kicking the habit

He may have avoided being caught on camera in the act, but President Obama has publicly acknowledged his struggle to quit smoking. So when the Surgeon General's 30th tobacco-related report was released this morning, it was a good bet that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs would be asked about the issue.

"I have not seen or witnessed evidence of any smoking in probably nine months," Gibbs said today when asked how hard the president had been working to stop the deadly habit. "This is not something that he's proud of. He knows that it's not good for him. He knows that it's -- he doesn't like children to know about it, obviously, including his. I think he has worked extremely hard."

Today's Surgeon General's report, entitled "How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease," notes that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke, that second-hand tobacco smoke can cause vascular problems linked to heart attacks and strokes, and that the danger from tobacco smoke is immediate.

Gibbs said he believed the president continued to chew nicotine replacement gum to curb his cravings.

"I think he would tell you, even when in the midst of the tax agreement and the START deal and all the other things that accumulate, that even where he might have once found some comfort in that he's pushed it away," he said. "He understands its dangers and I think has done a lot of extraordinary work to wrestle with that habit as millions of Americans have."

When asked whether not having witnessed the president smoking means he had quit, Gibbs responded "For that nine months, yes," but added that the president would be the first to admit that quitting is "a struggle."

"He's stubborn," Gibbs went on, when asked how Obama managed to curb his smoking, sparking laughter in the press room. "This is something that he's thought about for a while. This is something he's aware is not something that's in doing (sic) in his best interests or his health."

So has the president really kicked the habit? That may be unknowable for those who don't actually live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but the press secretary is a longtime aide and friend to the president and spends a great deal of time with him.