Former smoker McCain talks cigarettes, cancer with Lance Armstrong

July 25, 2008

posterobamamccain.jpgCOLUMBUS, Ohio – Republican John McCain  added a pledge on Thursday to his list of goals if he wins the White House: help people quit smoking. 

McCain, who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day before ceasing 29 years ago, told a summit organized by cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong that preventive measures were key to keeping people healthy. 

“So as president, I will work with business and insurance companies in support of programs to help people quit smoking,” he said. 

Armstrong pressed McCain on whether he would stop a trend seen during the Bush administration in which funding for the National Cancer Institute had decreased. 

“We will reverse that trend,” McCain said, though he declined to be specific about how much he would increase funding. 

McCain veered off of his prepared remarks to speak briefly about his own battle with melanoma. He joked later with Armstrong about whom the champion cyclist would prefer to exercise with: McCain or his Democratic rival Barack Obama

lance.jpg“I don’t have an answer for you on who I would work out with,” Armstrong told reporters. “Probably best just to do a little triathlon. You know, we could hike one day with Senator McCain and play basketball one day with Senator Obama and then the other day they have to go ride with me, and then we’ll figure it out.” 

Armstrong also hinted that he might be interested in running for office someday. 

“There might come a time when you feel like you’ve reached a wall and you need to step into public office and try to make change through that channel or those ends,” he said. “But not right now.” 

Armstrong’s foundation did not endorse McCain. The cyclist said he would also press Obama to talk about his plans and experience related to cancer issues.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credits: (top) Reuters/Mike Blake (Comic book biographies of the candidates displayed at Comic-Con in San Diego,  July 23, 2008) and (bottom) Reuters/Jim Young  (Armstrong testifies on Capitol Hill in May)


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

kudos to armstrong for pushing cancer research funding upon both candidates and opting not to endorse either at this time. while i don’t worship or even idolize the man, i do respect his attempt to put his circle of influence to good use.

Posted by solarweasel | Report as abusive

I’m at the Summit, and am glad that we’re working to make cancer a national priority, but its not so much that one candidate wasn’t endorsed, but that as a 501(c)3 LAF CAN’T endorse anyone, even if Obama said he would abolish all cancer funding.

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive

The Bush administration has been a disaster in the war against cancer. At the same time as he cut funding for cancer research, Bush vetoed every bill that would have cut into tobacco company sales or profits. This country really needs a major change in administrations.

Posted by Pete | Report as abusive

McCain proposed a cigarette tax in the 90’s.

Last year he opposed SCHIP because it contained a cigarette tax. He even feigned confusion on the concept.

Straight talker, or flip-flopper ?

Posted by j | Report as abusive

[…] for the next President. Both major candidates are former cigarette smokers: Republican John McCain smoked two packs a day until he quit three decades ago while Democrat Barack Obama admitted having a cigarette as recently […]

Posted by Fact Sheet: Obama and McCain on Cigar Issues | Report as abusive

Cancer is a terrible disease. This is a tragedy for all people on earth. A huge number of people dying from cancer. Do not provoke him. It is necessary at the time to give up addictions. And if the state doing this, I am very pleased.

Posted by StopSmokerMen | Report as abusive