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DEAR ABBY: I have a different kind of problem for you. My husband, "Bill," is a smoker, and I'm a nonsmoker. He knows that his habit is bad for him and has expressed his desire to quit on countless occasions. He has tried to quit a few times without success.

Here's my problem. My mother-in-law, "Mary" (also a smoker), gives Bill packs of cigarettes as gifts. I told Bill long ago that I understand his addiction (I used to smoke years ago), but that he should never ask me to buy cigarettes for him because I cannot in good conscience assist him in destroying his health.

I know that Mary is a grown woman and it is not my place to tell her what she can and cannot do for her only son, but I want to scream every time I see her handing Bill a pack of cigarettes and saying, "Here, Sweetie, I got these for you." I feel like I'm watching someone slowly kill him.

Yes, I realize that the ultimate responsibility lies with Bill because he's the one who lights the cigarettes and inhales the smoke, but what mental deficiency must Mary have to, in effect, kill her own son? Is there anything I can do to get her to stop giving him cigarettes? Bill would never ask her to stop because his take on the situation is that he's going to smoke anyway -- and cigarettes are expensive -- so she's doing us both a favor and saving us some money.

By the way, Mary is a serious control freak, and the last time Bill and I attempted to speak with her about something that was very important, she didn't speak to us for a year, which hurt Bill immeasurably. I don't want to have to deal with that again. Can you help? -- FRUSTRATED NONSMOKER IN L.A.

DEAR FRUSTRATED: It is hard to imagine parents doing something that is harmful to their children -- but every now and then we hear about ignorant people who feed alcohol to a small child, or minimize illicit drug use in teen-agers when they should be helping and educating them.

Bill's mother is a classic enabler. And your husband has somehow confused her feeding his addiction with showing love for him. Both of them are to be pitied.

Unfortunately, there is nothing I -- or you -- can do to help Bill overcome his addiction to tobacco. Only he can do that. And the first step is admitting he has an addiction he cannot control and seeking help from his doctor. There are medications available today that can help people overcome their nicotine addiction and ease the withdrawal for those who cannot face going "cold turkey." However, they are available by prescription only.

Unfortunately, there is no medication that can cure what is wrong with Bill's mother.

DEAR ABBY: One of my co-workers has a terrible habit -- she continually chews and cracks her gum. Abby, this is a professional office, not a truck stop. Not only does she look like a cow that's chewing her cud, the sound is extremely annoying. How can we get her to stop without offending her? -- NEEDS TO KNOW IN SHERWOOD, ARK.

DEAR NEEDS TO KNOW: If the gum-cracker is not aware that she is offending others, you or one of her other co-workers should tell her privately in a friendly way. If she is aware and doesn't care, her supervisor should be told.

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