DEAR ABBY: This is in reply to the 81-year-old woman who proposed creating an anti-smoking poster with two healthy sisters on each side of the unhealthy sister who smoked. It won't work!
I'm 20, and if I saw a poster of an elderly woman dying of lung cancer, I would scoff at the message. I would be sympathetic, but I would think, "I'm young. I'll NEVER be like that." However, if I met someone in his late teens or early 20s who had lung cancer, it would be a different story.
I propose sending teens who are ex-smokers to schools with their stories. Not just junior and high schools, but elementary schools, too. I recently quit smoking. (I was in third grade when I started.) I now work in a school. Every day I wonder which students smoke or drink. I wish I could make a difference. If you know of an organization looking for young adults like me to tell their stories -– please let me know. –- CHRIS IN MASSACHUSETTS
DEAR CHRIS: The problem with your proposal is that tobacco-related cancers usually take years to develop. The chances of a high school student meeting a contemporary with cancer of the mouth, throat, lung, pancreas, cervix, kidney or bladder are slim. However, every year a person smokes, the more deeply addicted he or she becomes.
P.S. I'd be interested in knowing why you finally quit. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Thirteen-year-old kids don't care about 81-year-old cancer patients on oxygen tanks. When I was 13, I had two adjectives for everything –- "cool" and "uncool." When you're 13, you're never going to be 81 or have cancer. Being uncool is the real danger!
Ad campaigns directed at teens pound the health issue to death, but kids tune them out. Cigarettes are cool precisely because they are unhealthy and disreputable. The anti-smoking ads must improve. Somewhere there must be some principled, highly intelligent people with the media savvy to gradually make smoking uncool. Things will not change otherwise.
Advertising agencies with a conscience –- graphic designers with a cause –- tastemakers with a point of view: Are you reading this carefully? –- LOSING MY COOL IN L.A.
DEAR LOSING MY COOL: Don't give up hope. I'm sure there are creative people out there who care as much as we do.
DEAR ABBY: My mother is a lifelong smoker. She is dying from lung cancer. The bravest thing she has ever done is share her story with high school students. She makes no bones about her future. If her story prevents one kid from starting to smoke, she'll feel she has done something good with her life. –- P.T. IN ALLENTOWN, PA.
DEAR P.T.: Please accept my sympathy for your mother's terminal illness. She's a courageous woman to share her story in the hope it will save others.
DEAR ABBY: My deceased dad had the good grace to write a statement to be read at his funeral admitting that smoking is a killer, and he wouldn't wish it on anyone. –- M.L. IN SPRINGFIELD, MO.
DEAR M.L.: My condolences to you for the loss of your father. He told it like it was.
DEAR ABBY: My sister and I are in our 40s. Upon reading the letter from the 81-year-old woman, we both decided we wanted to be healthy and active in our retirement years. We quit smoking on the spot! –- GRATEFUL IN WOODSTOCK
DEAR GRATEFUL: Yippee! A double victory! Your letter made my day.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600