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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: In a recent column you discussed the subject of inhalant abuse. It incorrectly mentioned a 3M product, Scotchgard Fabric Protector, as one product that is commonly abused.

Prior to 1993, Scotchgard protector did contain solvents that were apparently attractive to "huffers." However, 3M responded to environmental and safety concerns and reformulated the product. Since that reformulation, we have not been made aware of any inhalant incidents related to this product. The current product is water-based. -- HARVEY BERWIN, PH.D., 3M HOME CARE DIVISION, ST. PAUL, MINN.

DEAR DR. BERWIN: That's a relief. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I am the director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition. I recently read the follow-up letter in your column about inhalant-related death. Unfortunately, incidents like this occur all too frequently. More than 340 deaths have been reported to us since 1996. Education and awareness are the prime prevention tools in dealing with this problem.

I would like to share another issue that has recently arisen that a number of people have contacted me about. One of the major shoe manufacturers has a new product -- a basketball shoe filled with helium. Their promotion for the shoe includes basketball stars who talk as if they have just huffed helium.

Abby, these are role models for young people who look up to these athletes. Some might say that if it's OK for these people to huff helium, then it's only a short leap of the imagination to assume it's OK to try something that could be far more deadly. -- HARVEY WEISS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INHALANT PREVENTION COALITION

DEAR MR. WEISS: The people responsible for that ad must have helium in their heads instead of brains. "Huffing" is not cool; it can be deadly.

Readers: The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition has a Web site that provides information in both English and Spanish at The coalition also has materials it sends at no cost if people contact it through its Web site or via the toll-free number: 1-800-269-4237.

DEAR ABBY: On Dec. 25, you printed an unattributed piece titled "Friendship" that was sent to you by a reader in St. Petersburg, Fla.

I thought you would like to know those words were written by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik in 1866, in a book titled, "A Life for a Life" (p.169). Here is the original in its entirety:

"But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearless on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort -- the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person -- having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away." -- ROSALIE MAGGIO, ST. PAUL, MINN.

DEAR ROSALIE: Thank you for the reliable input. Several readers mistakenly informed me that it had been written by T.S. Eliot. However, Warren Seid, my trusty secret weapon at the Hollywood Library, has confirmed that you are correct.

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