DEAR ABBY: I just found this letter I wrote to you last January:
"Dear Abby: I work in a bakery with my boyfriend. He took a couple of days off because of an emergency. I now have to do both our jobs by myself. The stress is on. It's 2 a.m., and I want a cigarette so bad I'm climbing the walls. My jaw is sore from chewing gum instead of smoking -- and I hate pain.
"I smoked my last cigarette Jan. 2. About an hour ago, on my break, I decided to read the paper before making a quick trip to the convenience store. Smack in the middle of your column was another one of those "stop-smoking" letters from a woman named Jill Dial. In the middle of her letter, in capital letters, it said, 'DON'T GIVE UP!' It also said that after a month I will feel better. I sure hope so, because right now I want a cigarette as bad as I did last week, and I sure don't feel better. This is the longest I have gone without a cigarette in 26 years."
Abby, please don't stop printing those "irritating" stop-smoking letters. -- FEELING BETTER IN MINNEAPOLIS
DEAR TIRED: I need little encouragement to keep printing those stop-smoking letters. This one's for you. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: If I've learned nothing else from reading your column, I have learned to thank a person right away and not postpone it.
Abby, thank you so very much for your annual crusade in November against smoking. Thank you for my 10 years of smoke-free living. I'll think of you for many years with a grateful heart.
I smoked for more than 40 years. I started as a preteen. I had tried to stop a few times, but had been unsuccessful. I guess the reasons I finally succeeded were: (1) I truly wanted to stop; and (2) Your crusade gave me a reason to stop for a day. That day turned into more days -- and here we are.
Keep up the good work! I'm sure there are many more converts waiting in the wings. Please keep pounding out the message that smoking is NOT COOL. -- WALTER IN ALLENTOWN, PA.
DEAR WALTER: Your letter made my day. I commend you for overcoming your addiction. Allow me to be the first to congratulate you on your 10th anniversary of kicking the smoking habit.
What a fitting way to announce that tomorrow, Nov. 19, marks the 22nd Annual Great American Smokeout. The Smokeout is a one-day campaign to encourage smokers to quit smoking for 24 hours -- to prove that they can do it. In 1997, 24 percent of smokers (approximately 11,280,000 people) participated in the Great American Smokeout. Of those participating, 19 percent reported they were smoking less or not at all one to five days later. That's more than 2 million people who are well on their way to healthier, smoke-free lives -- thanks to the American Cancer Society.
I am told that while "cold turkey" is the most difficult, it's also the most effective way to kick the habit. Those who need help or want more information about the effects of tobacco may call the local chapter of the American Cancer Society or 1-800-ACS-2345.
So, Dear Readers, if you're hooked on tobacco and have been saying, "One of these days, I'm going to quit," why not join the Great American Smokeout and quit tomorrow? It won't be easy, but it will be the best Thanksgiving gift you can give yourself and those who love you.