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Chew or Vape, Mr. President

President Obama's efforts to quit smoking reached the level of a critical image problem this past week. Everybody knew he used to smoke. Everybody knew he chewed Nicorette. But this past week the proverbial poop hit the proverbial fan, and it's become an issue.

At a D-Day commemoration in France last week, he chewed, and the locals found it tres mauvais ton. “Obama was chewing gum almost uninterrupted," twittered one observer, with Gallic disdain.

After that, he was off to Beijing for a conference of international honchos called the APEC, and the prim and proper Chinese were quite put out by his chomping. They thought he looked like an "idler" and even a "rapper" – a charge that conceals, not too delicately, an undercurrent of racism. “We made this meeting so luxurious, with singing and dancing, but see Obama, stepping out of his car chewing gum like an idler,” wrote one blogger. Another said the gum-chewing made Mr. Obama look like a hip-hop artist as he got out of his car. It must be a case of the butterflies, thought another. “He must be nervous,” he or she wrote. “If Kim Jong-Un came, there would definitely not be any chewing of gum!”

But really, who chews gum any more? Apparently the Chinese do, to the tune of 14 billion sticks per year. Their bill for dental care probably rivals that of the cancer treatment bill for the monumental problem of smoking-related disease in nicotine-hooked China. For that, they've invented electronic cigarettes. But what's the hapless chewer to do?

President Obama is now "tobacco free" according to his personal physician, Dr. Ronny L. Jackson. However, he still engages is "occsional use" of nicotine gum. Dr. Jackson's report was conducted last May, and in general gave the Prez a clean bill of health. But a reporter who is also a quitting smoker reports that he jokingly exchanges nicotine gum with the president when they run into each other in public, and exchange jokes about the matter.

“I’m not a purist,” Obama told journalist David Remnick. It appears that Obama’s trip director, carries the president’s Nicorette, always at the ready. But the president's Nicorette habit has become increasingly a matter of public concern and scrutiny.

Obama was observed "popping a piece" during the Inauguration parade in 2012, and again during a White House ceremony in July.

Jeff Stier to the rescue. The harm reduction advocate, just back from a frustrating trip to Moscow, where he cooled his heels in the foyer while Putin's goons banished reporters covering the FCTC of the WHO, has approached the beleaguered Prez with a solution to his nicotine probs. Electronic cigarettes.

"We’re getting together a variety of e-cigarettes to send Obama, to give him some choices," said Stier. "Had he been vaping, he could have satisfied his nicotine craving . . . without offending."