While most coverage of yesterday’s Meet The Press interview with Barack Obama centered on his comments on the economy, there was on side issue I found interesting: Obama’s smoking habit.

Close observers of Obama have known for awhile that he is an on-again-off-again smoker. But, generally speaking, his cigarette habit has been as hidden from view as was Franklin Roosevelt’s paralysis. I mean, images of Obama smoking on the campaign trail never circulated although he admitted yesterday that he still struggles with quitting.

I wonder if his popularity during the campaign would have suffered if more people knew about his habit? To me, it just makes him seem more human. But we tend to demonize smoking in our modern culture and I wonder if Obama’s habit, if more widely known, would damage his image as a cultivated, vigorous, in-control man.

Admittedly, this is a rather small point with all the real problems facing Obama. But it’s an interesting statement both on Obama and contemporary culture that his smoking has been so hidden. For his part, Obama says he’ll follow the White House’s no smoking policy. But I bet, with the stress, he’ll still sneak a few puffs. And I bet we never see a picture of it.

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