Ex-smoker Obama still sneaks occasional puff

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington June 23, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Reed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama may have just made life more difficult for cigarette makers, but he is not above sneaking a smoke every now and again.

Obama, who has publicly struggled to quit smoking, said he still hasn’t completely kicked the habit even after signing a law this week that will likely set tough new rules for the tobacco industry.

“As a former smoker I constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes. Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No,” Obama said at a news conference.

“I don’t do it in front of my kids, I don’t do it in front of my family. I would say that I am 95 percent cured, but there are times where I mess up,” he said.

The new law gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the power to strictly limit the manufacturing and marketing of tobacco products.

At a White House signing ceremony on Monday, Obama said that he was among the nearly 90 percent of smokers who took up the habit before their 18th birthday.

“Once you go down this path it’s something you continually struggle with, which is precisely why the legislation we signed is so important because what we don’t want is kids going down that path in the first place,” he said at the news conference.

Nearly 20 percent of Americans smoke and tobacco use kills about 440,000 people a year in the United States due to cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other ailments.

Reporting by Andy Sullivan, Editing by Howard Goller and Frances Kerry