June 10 (Bloomberg) — Philippine President-elect Benigno Aquino, who received flak for smoking on the campaign trail and has resisted calls to quit, said U.S. President Barack Obama offered to help him kick the habit.
Aquino, who takes office June 30, said Obama called him yesterday after legislators officially declared him the winner of the May 10 election. Obama congratulated him and the two didnʼt discuss state matters, Aquino told reporters in Manila.
“I told him, Mr. President, we have the same problem: We are both smokers,” said Aquino, who favors the Marlboro brand. He said Obama replied: “Well, I quit. At the time you decide to quit, I will send the advice.”
Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, whom Aquino says he may retain, was one of several people and groups that urged the president-elect to set a good example for young Filipinos by stopping smoking. Aquino, a 50-year-old bachelor, said quitting would add to his stress level. As many as 27 percent of Filipino adults smoke, Cabral said in a phone interview today.
The Philippines is one of the largest cigarette markets in the world, with 85 billion cigarettes smoked in 2009, Philip Morris International Inc.ʼs local unit said in February. Philip Morris manufactures cigarette brands including Marlboro.
Aquino could finish a pack a day and even had three packs at the height of the Philippine presidential elections in 1985 when his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, ran against Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippine Star reported on May 25.
–With assistance from Cecilia Yap in Manila and Clarissa Batino in Singapore.
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