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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I need your help. Please print this for the people in Edgewater, Fla., to see.

PLEASE DO NOT HELP OUR SON TO SMOKE

Our son is 14 years old, but he looks 18. I have caught him smoking several times. He keeps promising to quit, but I know he is still smoking because I can smell it on his clothes and in his hair. He has lost many privileges since you have been buying him cigarettes.

He is not wise enough at 14 to make this decision, and I need your help in this very important matter.

If he asks you to buy a pack of cigarettes for him, just say, "No, it's illegal!"

If the kids get enough "nos," it might help them to stop. Abby, they are our future leaders. Let's not let them mess up. I read that one out of three people who are addicted to smoking will get cancer.

Thanks for listening. I am signing my name, but please sign me ... A CONCERNED MOTHER, EDGEWATER, FLA.

DEAR CONCERNED MOTHER: I am printing your letter because you represent many mothers (and fathers) who do not want their teen-agers to smoke. I hope this helps, although my mail tells me that nicotine addiction is harder to overcome than alcohol. People who buy cigarettes for underage smokers are doing them no favor.

DEAR ABBY: I want to give recognition to a wonderful person. She is my ex-husband's new wife.

I had conflicts with his girlfriends in the past. Our son lives with him, and it's been difficult for me to deal with another woman telling my son what to do, etc. However, Erica (10 years younger than I am) opened up and told me some background about herself and her family. She shared some frustration and asked for my advice about dealing with my son and similar problems she had with in-laws.

Maybe her discussing these things with me is not proper; I don't know, as I am not well-versed in proper etiquette for extended families. However, Erica embraced me as being an equal part of the family. She is so warm to me and I admire her so much.

I care a great deal for my ex, and we make great friends but a miserable couple. We have put the best interests of our son above everything else, and Erica is mature enough not to be threatened.

I think that she is lucky to have my ex, as he is a wonderful man, but now I also think he is lucky to have her. My son is lucky to have such an open-hearted stepmom.

More divorced couples should think about how the kids feel so torn, like they have to choose between parents. I am so grateful that my son hasn't been put in that position. I want to thank all stepparents who are like Erica. Thanks so very much, Erica. -- DANA WHITESIDE, CINCINNATI

DEAR ABBY: As a 16-year-old Canadian living in Toronto, I would like to clear up some misconceptions that people have about us Canadians:

1. We don't live in igloos; we have regular beautiful houses.

2. It's not freezing year-round. Yes, it does get cold in the winter, but it also gets pretty hot in the summer.

3. Michael Johnson is not the fastest man in the world! Donovan Bailey is, because he won the 100 meters in the Olympics in record time. And, if memory serves me right, it's always been the winner of the 100-meter race who gets the title of world's fastest man. -- PROUD CANADIAN IN TORONTO

DEAR PROUD CANADIAN: I'm not sure what set you off, but I'm pleased that many Canadians (and particularly Donovan Bailey) will be delighted to see that you've gone on record. Michael Johnson overshadowed Donovan Bailey's Olympic triumph last summer in Atlanta. Technically, Bailey, who ran 9.84 seconds for the gold, is the "world's fastest man." The test will be May 31 in Toronto, when Johnson and Bailey compete in a 150-meter match race.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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