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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: When I was in high school, I used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. After I graduated, I went to work in a nuclear plant where smoking wasn't permitted, so as a safe alternative, I started dipping snuff.

Well, it wasn't as safe as I thought it was, because I became addicted. Dipping snuff is the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do before I go to bed.

I've noticed that my gums are receding and my teeth are spreading apart. I now have a permanent dent in my mouth between the cheek and gums where the snuff sets.

When I see my friends who are beginning to dip, I show them what's happening to me, but it doesn't seem to impress them. Even though I am now so addicted I'm doing two cans a day, I try to get them to quit. I guess some people will have to learn the hard way, like I did.

I hope this letter stops at least one person from dipping. It's just as bad a habit as smoking. Maybe worse. -- ONE HOPELESS GUY

DEAR HOPELESS: It's commendable that you are trying to save others, but how about starting with yourself?

Call the American Cancer Society (the toll-free number is (800) 227-2345) and ask what kind of program is available for people who are hooked on dipping snuff -- then join it.

If you can kick the habit, you will make an excellent spokesperson for the former "big dippers." Nobody can inspire others who are hooked on a habit and want to quit like the person who's been there.

DEAR ABBY: A year ago last spring I became engaged to a girl I thought was the most beautiful blonde in Illinois.

I am an officer in the reserves, and when my unit was put on alert last summer, I wanted to get married right away instead of waiting until June as we had planned. My fiancee said, "No, let's not hurry things." I gave her an engagement ring that set me back $2,500.

We wrote to each other, and I called her every Sunday. She kept telling me she couldn't wait to be married and always told me that she loved me.

Suddenly, after Christmas, I got a letter from her saying that she had been seeing an old boyfriend -- she was pregnant and had to get married!

When I got back home, I saw her and asked her to give the ring back. She stalled at first, then told me she had sold it because her husband is a free-lance photographer and he doesn't work much.

My parents said, "Be a gentleman and consider the ring your wedding present to her."

Abby, they really do need the money, but now I feel as if I've been slapped in the face twice by her. What do you think? -- SLAPPED AGAIN IN CHICAGO

DEAR SLAPPED: She should have returned the ring as soon as she knew she was not going to marry you. You were extremely generous to consider the engagement ring her wedding present. After the snow job she gave you, a lesser man would have demanded the ice.

Want your phone to ring? Get Abby's booklet, "How to Be Popular" -- for people of all ages. To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.

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