WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, THERE’S BOREDOM…. There’s something odd about the media’s fascination with President Obama’s occasional cigarette. McClatchy’s Margaret Talev broached the subject during yesterday’s press conference.

“As a former smoker, I understand the frustration and the fear that comes with quitting. But with the new law that you signed yesterday regulating the tobacco industry, I’d like to ask you a few questions. How many cigarettes a day do you now smoke? Do you smoke alone or in the presence of other people? And do you believe the new law should help you to quit? If so, why?”

In other words, the president had just signed landmark legislation, giving unprecedented authority to federal officials to regulate tobacco products. What’s really interesting, though, isn’t the new government policy, decades in the making, but rather, Obama’s personal habits.

The president addressed this, explaining that the new law isn’t about him. Recognizing the “human interest story,” however, he added that he “struggles” with it and has “fallen off the wagon” at times. Obama went to explain that he never smokes around his family, is 95% “cured” of his addiction, but like recovering alcoholics, “it’s something you continually struggle with, which is precisely why the legislation we signed was so important, because what we don’t want is kids going down that path in the first place.”

This led to reports today in the New York Times and LA Times, bizarre criticism from Michelle Malkin, and even some unexpected disapproval from Matt Cooper.

Does the president’s occasional cigarette and difficulty in kicking the habit really deserve this much attention?

Michelle Cottle added, “In the wake of the tobacco bill signing, I’m sure the media’s hypocrisy obsession comes into play. But who better knows the insidious allure of smoking than a struggling addict? As things stand, the storyline that the leader of the free world stupidly got himself hooked on nicotine as a kid and, despite having tried on numerous occasions to kick the habit, still can’t totally shake that monkey kind of works as a cautionary tale.”

The president has a personal vice. It’s not that important.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.