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by Abigail Van Buren

Cigars' Newfound Glamour Shouldn't Hide Their Risks

DEAR ABBY: Your recent column about the Great American Smokeout prompts this letter. You may have helped save my life -- or, if not my life, certainly the quality of my life.

During the Great American Smokeout back in 1985, you encouraged those who had quit for 10 days to write to you. I did, and you responded with a personal note of support and encouragement. I have not smoked since.

A few weeks ago, I was refilling my lawnmower gas tank at a nearby mini-mart and noticed four teen-agers, two boys and two girls, leaning against a car, puffing away.

After I paid for the gas, I approached them and said, "You don't know me and I don't know you, but guess my age."

The guesses ranged from 55 to 65. I said, "I'm 72, and I will play three sets of tennis tomorrow and 18 holes of golf the next day. I have a very good friend who is also 72. He is in the hospital on oxygen.

"I quit smoking. He didn't. Think it over."

My friend may not be dead, but his quality of life -- and that of his wife -- sure is.

It's hard to conceive of age 72 when you're 16, but if just one of those kids got the message and quits smoking, then I will have in part repaid you for your support and encouragement 12 years ago. Thank you, Abby. -- GLAD I QUIT, PENNSYLVANIA READER

DEAR GLAD: Thank YOU; your letter made my day! Your efforts to raise the consciousness of young people about the dangers of tobacco are commendable.

Even with all the publicity that has been generated about the addictiveness and health hazards posed by tobacco, smoking remains seductive to an alarming number of people. Therefore, as the glamorization of cigar smoking increases and becomes a more acceptable vice, I'd like to take the opportunity to emphasize the health hazards associated with this trend.

Cigars have taken on an air of sophistication because of the marketing of Cigar Aficionado magazine, cigar nights at invitation-only dinners, celebrity promotion and endorsements, etc. Growing numbers of women are also participating in this unhealthy fad. Because cigar smoke is rarely inhaled, there is a false sense of security that cigar smoking is a safe alternative to cigarette smoking. However, according to the 1989 Surgeon General's report:

-- Cigar smokers are three times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers.

-- Cancer death rates among men who smoke cigars are 34 percent higher than among nonsmokers.

-- People who smoke cigars have four to 10 times the risk of dying from oral, laryngeal and esophageal cancers when compared to nonsmokers.

-- Exposure to secondhand cigar smoke carries the same risks as exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke.

-- Concentrations of tar and nicotine are much higher in cigars than in cigarettes.

-- The carcinogens found in cigarettes are also found in cigars.

Readers, is the desire to be "in" worth the risk? Think about it!

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