Ex-smoker Obama: quitting is hard, he should know

WASHINGTON Thu Nov 17, 2011 10:51am EST

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Denpasar, Bali, November 17, 2011.  REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Denpasar, Bali, November 17, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ex-smoker President Barack Obama kicked the habit and now he wants to give cigarette makers a little shove too.

In a video released on Thursday to congratulate Americans taking part in a national drive to quit smoking, Obama took aim at tobacco companies fighting graphic labels his administration imposed to warn consumers about the risks of their habit.

Calling tobacco "the leading cause of preventable early deaths in this country," Obama said the labels were a new tool to keep cigarettes away from children.

Cigarette makers, he said, wanted to block them "because they don't want to be honest about the consequences of using their products. Unfortunately, this isn't surprising."

The 50-year-old president managed to quit smoking last year with the aid of nicotine gum and was confirmed as being

"tobacco free" at his last physical checkup in October.

He made no bones about how difficult it was.

"Fact is, quitting smoking is hard. Believe me, I know," he said in the video for the Great American Smokeout aimed at helping some of the country's 46 million smokers to stop.

A U.S. judge last week blocked the rule requiring tobacco companies to display graphic images on cigarette packs, including pictures of dead bodies and rotting teeth. But that judgment is widely expected to be appealed and the legal battle may go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Reynolds American Inc's R.J. Reynolds unit, Lorillard Inc, Liggett Group LLC and Commonwealth Brands Inc, owned by Britain's Imperial Tobacco Group Plc, sued the FDA in August, citing their right to free speech.

Tobacco has also popped up in the 2012 election, when a campaign video for Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain that showed his chief of staff blowing cigarette smoke at the camera went viral on the Internet.

(Reporting by Alister Bull; editing by Doina Chiacu)

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