Tobacco giant Reynolds American Inc. announced Thursday that retired House Speaker John Boehner is joining the company’s board of directors, to serve on its corporate governance and sustainability committee.
Boehner, who served nearly five years as speaker, was famous in the halls of Congress for his smoking habit, with a penchant for Camel Ultra Lights. Reynolds’ brand lineup includes Camels as well as Newports, Pall Malls, Natural American Spirits and others.
As speaker, the Ohio Republican lit up freely in his Capitol Hill office. When he left Congress, incoming Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he wasn’t sure how to rid the office of the smell, comparing it to a rental car that had been smoked in. The House superintendent ended up repainting the walls and changing the carpet.
Boehner was also known to be cozy with the tobacco industry. Infamously, he once passed out campaign contribution checks from the industry to members on the House floor, an action he acknowledged and said he regretted.
Boehner retired last year after a tumultuous speakership, much of it spent trying to corral a far-right faction of fellow Republicans swept into office during the tea party surge. The son of a bar owner, he first came to Washington in 1991 and served until last October. His abrupt resignation as speaker set off a scramble to fill a difficult job that few Republicans wanted.
Though surely under less stress these days, Boehner hasn’t given up his cigarettes. The Huffington Post spotted Boehner enjoying a smoke in public as recently as July, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Boehner once told Jay Leno that his cigarette habit was one reason he wasn’t cut out for a run at the White House.
“I like to play golf. I like to cut my own grass,” Boehner said. “I do drink red wine. I smoke cigarettes. And I’m not giving that up to be president of the United States.”