Barack Obama’s health initiative is reportedly a success. The president has managed to stop smoking for “almost a year” now, according to First Lady Michelle Obama.

Good for him and his family. Quitting smoking has been a struggle for the president. As is recounted in the NBC Nightly News segment above, Mr. Obama has been been trying to stop smoking since the end of 2007, and has talked about chewing Nicorette nicotine gum as part of that effort.

As a former smoker myself, I know what the habit is like. I started smoking in my early teens, quit for a while in my twenties, then started again in my thirties after being given a celebratory cigar by a friend who had become a father. It has now been over a decade since my last puff.

I also know smoking’s effects. I have seen loved ones — tough men — suffer horribly, and eventually die from lung cancer and emphysema.

We live near a school. Nearly every day, I see parents smoking cigarettes inside their vehicles while their children are with them. I wish I could call the police.

Quit smoking

I am convinced, though, that too much credit is given to the addiction. People pay for hypnotism to stop smoking, or to use a laser to stop smoking, or for patches to stop smoking. Nicotine is made out to be an impossible monster.

More confidence should be put in the human beings. Cigarettes, after all, are made of very thin paper and dried leaf slivers. They are easy to snap, crush, or crumble.

Suppose a cigarette could somehow ignite and hurl itself toward your mouth. Would you be helpless to stop it?

Of course not. You could swat it away using a karate-like move. Or you could catch it, throw it to the ground, and grind it under your heel. There would be any number of methods to defeat even a very willful cigarette. Water could be used.

Your chances are better yet, since no such gymnastic cigarettes exist. If you want to stop smoking for free, it’s really as simple as not placing a lit cigarette in your mouth ever again. That’s what it boils down to.

Sure, the habit or addiction will have to be broken. You may go through some days of anxiety and restlessness. Hey, not biting your fingernails is difficult at first, too.

But as long as you don’t place a lit cigarette (or cigar) in your mouth, your victory is absolutely certain. Go for a walk, do some pushups — whatever it takes to dissipate the nervous energy. At some point, the habit will finally break. It will become but a memory.

After that, if anyone offers you a cigar, politely refuse.