A Letter to President Obama on Smoking

Dear President Obama,

Hey. How’s it going?

Word on the street is you got a full plate. What with; the economy, a new dog, auto-makers, global warming, Iran, banking systems, North Korea, a young family, national health care,  social issues of various shapes and sizes…and not to mention you’ve been at your new diggs for little over 5 months.

I’d be smoking if I were you.

Smoking can be construed as cool. (Picking your nose could be cool too, i just don’t know that guy) I certainly thought so at one point.  Anyone who smokes knows it is true at one point in their lives. Be aware, the strongest propaganda can back fire.

At 21, anti-establishment, within collegiate reason, was my rule.  An on-air personality for an Illinois NPR jazz affiliate, I longed for a deep sultry voice, and the character of Frank Black – the 60 year old construction worker from Mississippi who hosted the weekend blues show, just without his hardships.  I started drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and hanging in dingy diners, where locals would roll their eyes at another college kid coming through. I fell in love with Tom Waits, John Lee Hooker, Billie Holiday….all the good raspy voices with lots of soul and artistic angst.

My relationship with smoking began, because it was art romanticized. Smoking seemed soulful and pensive. Many times it was the only quiet moments spent with my 1000 mph thoughts. Smoking was a mediation.

Problem is, my body doesn’t consider smoking to be artful, and neither does the world around me. It’s hard being a pilates instructor and a smoker at the same time. (Though I’m sure President is worse). Covering up the scent, sneaking them in the car, hiding behind the building. I work out. I eat better than most. Couldn’t I have my vice? (I still feel my logic isn’t totally flawed here.) Attempting to stand defiant, my conscience always felt off.  Damn it.

The decision was to quit once. Only when ready. Otherwise, just keep smoking. About 11 years after I started, on April Fools day, 2007, it was time. I quit. I just stopped. And it sucked.

Green tea curbed the nicotine cravings. Sitting down to a routine pot of tea and mandarins in the evening instead of cigarettes and wine on the back porch helped.  Locking myself in the bathroom for 5 minutes, or stepping outside, and inhaling deep breaths, as though smoking, to relax helped.  Keeping a notebook to jot down thoughts or expletives when frustrated or “full-brained” helped.

President Obama, sounds like you have some pent up energy and stress. Try finding decompression alternatives. I know you exercise, but try channeling the smoking energy into new personal ceremonies, habits, and/or meditations for yourselfnot for the greater good of the country. Yeah. Easier said than done, but keep it mind, OK? You have to own personal habits…or disown them as the case may be.

I still think smoking looks cool in certain contexts. But, I choose not to be cool in that way anymore. There’s gotta be other ways to identify artistically…other ways to be anti-establishment without hurting…other ways to have meditative moments without hiding.

Good luck and don’t quit if you’re not ready.  It won’t work. You’re still cool no matter what. I got your back.

Hey, best of luck with everything!  If you need a movement instructor to help you and the White House staff, I’d be happy to start the Mind/Body Fitness Movement from the White House. Imagine the health care savings from lowering stress levels!

…just adding another side to your plate.

Best Regards,

Stephanie L. Ellison


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