Obama 'to help' Aquino quit smoking

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 10 2010 06:53 PM | Updated as of Jun 11 2010 04:20 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Barack Obama has offered to help Philippine president-elect Benigno Aquino quit smoking, as the US leader phoned to extend his congratulations, the incoming Filipino leader said Thursday.

Obama, who has fought a public battle to kick the habit himself, called hours after Congress proclaimed Aquino the official winner of the May 10 election on Wednesday, the new president-elect told reporters.

"At some point I attempted some humor," Aquino said.

"I said, 'Mr President I understand we have the same issue with smoking.' He told me, 'Well, I quit that already. I quit, it's your sole problem but I'm ready to offer advice.'"

Aquino said the US leader promised to send the advice "at the time that you decide to quit."

The 50-year-old Aquino, said by former colleagues to smoke up to 2 packets a day, conceded during the election campaign that stopping smoking would be good for his health and that he intended to kick the habit eventually.

However he changed his mind after learning he had won, saying quitting now would add stress to his life, and he has pointed out that as long as he follows smoking regulations and does not bother anyone, he should be free to smoke.

Obama, 48, promised his wife he would quit smoking when he ran for president -- but has admitted succumbing to the occasional cigarette several times since moving into the White House.

Aquino described his conversation with Obama as "very pleasant" and said he found the US leader "very sincere" in strengthening ties with the Philippines, a former colony and a military ally in Asia.

The two men touched on a possible visit by Aquino to Washington, Aquino told reporters, but the Filipino stressed he would have to attend to other concerns of the state first.