Powerful men…Powerful habits

Presidents Day having recently past (or you can also think of it as coming up…just not for a long time) we were thinking about the Presidents who used tobacco.

It should be no surprise that a lot of them had found their way to a nicotine addiction in one form or another. After all most of them lived before the health effects of tobacco had been realized or understood.

Starting with John Adams and on up to Herbert Hoover, most of them were cigar smokers with an occasional chewer (Grover Cleveland) and pipe smoker (I’m talking about you, Martin Van Buren) thrown in. US Grant was known to go through about 20 cigars per day.

It wasn’t until Franklin D. Roosevelt that cigarettes made a big entrance into the White House. FDR was a chain smoker. John Kennedy was rumored to have consumed 3 packs a day, plus an occasional cigar; which makes him a member of the chain smoker’s club as well. And LBJ was a 3-pack-a-dayer.

But not to be outdone by other Presidents, before or since, Dwight Eisenhower was known to light up 80+ non-filters per day.

Of course, for many of them, it is hard to be sure what effects their nicotine habit had on their health, as the 1700’s through the early 1900’s are not known as an era of high quality health care but there are a few that we can be sure about.

Grant’s 20 cigar-a-day habit no doubt led to his slow and painful death as throat cancer methodically defeated the man that eluded and overpowered the entire Confederate army.

Modern doctors also believe that FDR’s official cause of death, cerebral hemorrhage, was actually associated with the cancer most likely derived from his long history of heavy smoking, having nothing to do with his polio.

LBJ and Eisenhower both suffered heart attacks, likely due to their need to indulge in nicotine. More recently, Bill Clinton’s love of cigars was possibly a strong contributing factor to his 2004 heart attack and other potential problems. And of course while we can’t actually associate JFK’s death to smoking, one has to wonder what another few years of a 3 pack-a-day habit would have done to his already poor health.

All of these men not only led the greatest nation in the history of humanity, they were also the Commander in Chief of the strongest, most successful armed forces assembled since Alexander the Great thought to himself, “I bet it would be really cool to take over that Persia place out East!”

By Phil Berbig

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