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DEAR ABBY: I quit smoking today. It may not seem like a great accomplishment to most people, but I'm 37 years old and have smoked since I was in seventh grade. Like many others, I tried for years to kick the habit, but I guess I never really had the proper motivation to do it.

I was looking at some photographs I took while my family was home last Christmas, and came to the last picture I ever took of my mother. We lost her just after New Year's. It was something none of us in the family ever expected. She had a massive heart attack.

Burying my mother was the toughest thing I have ever done. I don't want my kids to see me in a casket before I reach retirement age. Mother had very high blood pressure, for which she had been treated. We thought she was doing pretty well. Her treatment included quitting smoking a year ago. Unfortunately for her, she quit too late.

Please remind your readers that cancer isn't the only possible result of smoking. Smoking can also lead to high blood pressure that leads to heart trouble. -- SMOKE-FREE IN INDIANA

DEAR SMOKE-FREE: I offer my sympathy for the untimely loss of your mother. It's sad to say, but sometimes it takes the death of someone near and dear to convince us that we're not immortal. I commend you for your decision to finally quit smoking. If someone is looking for a reason to quit, your letter may provide an incentive.

DEAR ABBY: A fifth couple in our circle of friends recently ended their marriage. When I asked the husbands what happened, each said much the same thing: "When we were first married, I was the most important person in my wife's life. With each child, my place was shifted farther and farther back until I felt totally forgotten."

These husbands told me that "neglect" made them vulnerable to someone who did show them some attention. You know the rest.

When I asked the wives what happened, they said they didn't know -- but guessed that they "just drifted apart and their interests changed." None of them knew how their husbands felt.

I have also heard women say that their affair was the result of not feeling important at home. If only both spouses knew how important a little TLC is to his or her partner, there might be more lasting marriages. Abby, please warn your readers not to take their spouses for granted. Their partners should never feel they are at the bottom of the priority list. -- HAPPILY MARRIED HUSBAND

DEAR HAPPILY MARRIED: While doing your research, you picked up valuable information about the demise of many marriages: When children arrive, it's a given that life becomes busy and complicated. However, couples must make finding time for each other a priority. Both spouses need to remember that one day "the kids" will fly the nest, and for a marriage to survive, it must be infused with the necessary nutrients -- love, attention and respect, to name a few.

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