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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I will soon be 81. My daughters are nurses. They would like to create an anti-smoking poster to hang in every junior and senior high school in the country.

On one side would be a photograph of me on a ladder, painting my house. On the other side would be a picture of my oldest sister, who is 90, boarding a plane in Texas to visit friends and family in New England.

In the center would be a photo of our middle sister sitting in a wheelchair in her nursing home, hooked up to her 24-hour oxygen supply, having returned from yet another visit to the hospital with pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

Across the bottom of the poster in large letters would be: GUESS WHICH SISTER SMOKED FOR 40 YEARS? -- GLAD I DIDN'T IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR GLAD: I can think of no more powerful anti-smoking message. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I began smoking when I joined the military at 17. It was the cool thing to do. Movie stars, athletes and even doctors endorsed smoking in advertisements. Over the next 25 years, I tried to stop but didn't have the will power.

In 1977, my town sponsored a health fair. I went and took a breathing screening. I was told to blow into a tube. The attendant asked me to please blow harder because I was barely able to move the needle. Then she said, "I notice you have a pack of cigarettes in your shirt pocket." I was offended. I felt it was none of her business -- but a seed was planted.

Three weeks later, the American Cancer Society sponsored its first Great American Smokeout, encouraging smokers to quit for at least one day. I didn't smoke all day. That night, I threw the rest of my cigarettes away -- and I haven't smoked since. Quitting cold turkey was the hardest thing I ever did, Abby. This year I'm proud to say I have enjoyed 25 years of smoke-free living. -- ENJOYING A HEALTHY RETIREMENT IN FLORIDA

DEAR ENJOYING: Thank you for your timely letter. Tomorrow, Nov. 15, the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout will mark its 25th year. It grew out of a 1971 event in Randolph, Mass., in which Arthur P. Mullaney asked people to give up cigarettes for just one day and donate the money they saved to a high school scholarship fund.

In 1974, Lynn R. Smith, editor of the Monticello Times in Minnesota, spearheaded the state's first D-Day, or Don't Smoke Day. The idea caught on. On Nov. 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society succeeded in getting nearly 1 million smokers to quit for the day.

Over the past 25 years, there have been dramatic changes in the way society views tobacco promotion and tobacco use. Smoking is now forbidden in airplanes, most public buildings and restaurants. Unfortunately, an estimated 47 million adults in the United States currently smoke, and because of it, approximately half of them will die prematurely.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, and this year alone, there will be approximately 169,500 new cases diagnosed. More than 80 percent of lung cancers are thought to result from smoking.

So, Dear Readers, if you're hooked on tobacco and have been saying, "One of these days I've got to quit," take my advice -- join the Great American Smokeout and quit today!

For more information about the Great American Smokeout, call your local office of the American Cancer Society or (800) 227-2345, or visit the Web site: www.cancer org.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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