Rumors persist that President-elect Barack Obama is trying to quit smoking. I hope they aren't true.

The nation is too precariously balanced right now to risk having him burst into tears, or march off in a snit, or take to his bed with the glums.

It would jangle our already fragile national nerves to hear him smashing things offstage at news conferences. Nor do we want to watch him lose his train of thought and begin absent-mindedly lighting matches just to huff the sulfur and watch them burn.

Then there's the shoving fists full of carbs into his mouth, which could be taken the wrong way by world leaders. At state dinners, grabbing seconds before everyone has been served might be considered rude.

And do we as an obese nation, after admiring the perfect drape of Obama's suits all these months, want to see our beautiful, svelte president swell?

Will we want it leaked that our commander in chief has been seen cowering in White House toilets sneaking puffs from his hidden stash, or furtively hunting butts in public ashtrays? Begging hits off the staff, then swearing those government employees to secrecy?

I say heart disease, lung cancer, wrinkles and emphysema are personal issues. A president should be willing to take one for the team.

True, there are people who insist that after years of addiction, they just woke up as nonsmokers one morning. Bam! Done! And owing to their superior strength of character and resolve, they neither shed a tear nor gained an ounce.

But I would never vote for such a person.

That is a person who lacks passion and commitment.

That is a person who can turn his back on the one loyal friend who stood by him through the tedium and agony of high school. Through devastating breakups and rejections, family reunions and nasty drug trips, proms and abortions and divorces, final exams and hangovers, zits and incarcerations, miserable jobs with moronic co-workers and reprehensible bosses, weddings and funerals, humiliations and the cringing self-loathing of regret.

And smokes were not just for the bad times. They (in my case Kool Ultra 100s because I believed that "ultra" meant ultra-healthy, comparatively), are there in happiness too with no jealousy, no secret agenda. They enhance sexual afterglow, bring buses to bus stops, make phones ring and mail arrive, not to mention providing something to do with your hands.

Is there anyone as willing as a cigarette to pause and reflect? And to cheerfully and dependably call "break time!" every 22 minutes? Without them, there are no breaks worth taking. Sit back and ... what? Without them, there is no reason to end a meal. Breakfast segues into lunch, lunch into dinner.

Nearly 10 years after my last cigarette, I continue to peek behind the counter at Walgreens to make sure Kools still exist. Their pack has changed over the years, as has mine, but I know that, were we to reunite, there would be no hard feelings, no recriminations, no demands for explanations.

And all this support and acceptance is from the single source of my success; the very Kools through which I channeled all my novels! And did they ever demand coauthor credit or a cut of my advances or royalties? Never!

I voted and campaigned for President-elect Obama partly because deep in my soul I believe that he is not the kind of man to abruptly begin flapping his hands, shrieking in disgust at the least whiff of a stranger's smoke. I am confident that he will honor and mourn his smokes when his relationship with them must end.

But because there are a few other matters requiring his attention at this time, I dearly hope he waits until both his terms are completed before he begins the required smashing and weeping and gaining of weight.

Amy Goldman Koss is an ex-smoker whose latest teen novel is "Side Effects."