An Instagram photo has fueled speculation that the president has picked up his cigarette habit yet again

By Andrea Park
Updated June 10, 2015 01:25 PM
Aude Guerrucci/Corbis

Has the president picked up his smoking habit again? Don’t believe everything you (think you) see online, says the White House.

In a photo posted on Instagram earlier this week, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi stands on a balcony talking with President Barack Obama. The president may or may not be holding a pack of cigarettes in his hands, which ignited rumors that the former smoker has picked his old habit back up.

On Wednesday, American Urban Radio Network White House Correspondent April Ryan, author of The Presidency in Black and White, asked press secretary Josh Earnest about the photo of the president holding the suspicious little box.

“Does he have cigarettes in his hand?” Ryan asked. “He does not,” Earnest replied.

When the reporter pressed – “What was it?” – the president’s spokesman grew testy. “You may not be surprised that I haven’t raised this issue with the president today,” he said. (But yes, he insisted, he checked and they weren’t cigarettes.)

Obama has spoken candidly about his struggle to quit smoking: He attempted to kick the habit during his first presidential campaign in 2008 but admitted he “fell off the wagon and bummed [a cigarette]” a couple of times.

In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama was quoted by the Washington Post as saying that her husband had officially quit smoking “almost a year” before. The First Lady was also supposedly the driving force behind these efforts: Obama was overheard telling an attendee at a 2013 UN General Assembly meeting that he quit smoking because “I’m scared of my wife.”

The POTUS has been known to chew Nicorette nicotine gum as a replacement for his cigarettes and was recently criticized by the Indian media for chewing gum while attending India’s annual Republic Day parade.

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Although many have criticized the president for allegedly falling off the wagon yet again, others have brushed off his apparent relapse. “Let President Obama have a cigarette, already,” a Washington Post columnist wrote, countering that Obama has “the lousiest gig in the world.”

Then again, that might not be a pack of cigarettes in his hands at all.