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by Abigail Van Buren

Defender of Tobacco Use Is Merely Blowing Smoke

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Not Ready to Kick the Butts in Kenosha" (April 13), the smoker asking how to respond to people who lectured him/her about quitting, had ME "smoking." "Not Ready" said it's none of their business. And, with reservations, you agreed.

This is a common argument used by many addicts, whether their substance of choice is tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, heroin or food. Consider this: The "Not Readys" will turn 65 -- if they're lucky -- and go on Medicare, or they may wind up on disability or Medicaid before age 65 because of the choices they claim are nobody else's business.

Please tell me if you think you'll ever receive letters signed "Not Ready to Get a Disability Check Every Month Because I Won't Quit," or "Not Ready to Let Everybody Else Pay 80 Percent of My $276,000 Hospital Bill," or "Not Ready to Let Everyone Else Pay $1,500 a Month for My Oxygen and Medications." -- DR. STEVEN IN RENO

DEAR DR. STEVEN: I doubt I'll get many -- or any. While I agree with you, you should know that the letter from "Not Ready to Kick the Butts" inflamed the emotions of smokers and non-smokers alike. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I was surprised at your reply to "Not Ready." It was rude and judgmental, and you owe that writer an apology. As a former smoker, I think (s)he has every right to smoke. Everyone at this point knows the risks. Smokers are behaving respectfully by smoking outside and away from non-smokers. The final sentence of your "advice" -- to "try not to breathe on them because it could be hazardous to their health" -- was out of line. -- CHRISTINA IN NOBLE, OKLA.

DEAR ABBY: People with an allergy to tobacco don't have to be exposed to the smoke itself, or even be able to smell the cigarette to have an adverse reaction. My ex-boyfriend was a secret smoker. He would have a single cigarette outside work in the late morning, wash his hands thoroughly, then go out with me at night. Every single time, within minutes of sitting next to him, my asthma would flare up enough to require me to use my inhaler.

Anyone who sits within 3 feet of a smoker for the rest of the day is exposed. And when you consider people with asthma, cystic fibrosis or other lung disorders, the smoker's personal choices are NOT limited to just his/her own health. -- SENSITIVE TO SMOKE IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR ABBY: As I sit here, sadly watching my husband of 42 years waste away from the ravages of tobacco, I wish "Not Ready" lived here. I'd invite that person to sit with me and watch the chemicals from the chemo drip into his arm, with the follow-up nausea, rash, hair loss and fatigue.

My husband smoked for 30 years, but quit 34 years ago. The doctors say his disease began when he took that first puff. -- JUDI IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR ABBY: All smokers know the effects of smoking, and as long as we choose to do it, IT'S OUR CHOICE. We are lectured every day about it. "Not Ready" was being respectful, so why can't non-smokers reciprocate and leave us smokers alone? The help is out there if we choose to seek it. -- STILL SMOKING IN IOWA

DEAR ABBY: A chain-smoking Marine Corps gunnery sergeant once told me: "Anyone can quit smoking. It takes a REAL man to risk lung cancer." -- MARSHALL IN VIENNA, VA.

DEAR MARSHALL: And where is that Marine today?

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