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by Abigail Van Buren

Odor Lingers Long After Smokers Return Books to Library

DEAR ABBY: May I vent about something? I work for a public library. A customer came up the other day holding a book she was interested in and asked, "Does this smell like cigarette smoke to you?" It did, so I apologized and added it to the box of items to be disposed of.

This happens often. Books are returned by obviously heavy smokers with the pages so saturated with the odor of stale tobacco that they must be set aside to see if it will dissipate. Sometimes they smell better after a day or so, but often we have no choice but to throw perfectly good books away. It's frustrating, because the cost of books, DVDs and other materials adds up. We don't have a policy for charging the offenders.

So, Abby, I hope you will pass along the "hint" to heavy smokers that if they smoke while reading their library books, they're creating extra costs for the library and their fellow taxpayers, and affecting more than just their own health. -- LIBRARY EMPLOYEE IN WASHINGTON

DEAR L.E.: I understand your problem because many years ago there was no rule in the Dear Abby office against smoking on the premises, and several of my mother's assistants were heavy smokers. In those days, readers' questions all arrived via snail mail rather than via the Internet, and I vividly remember my mother complaining that when letters were delivered to her home, the tobacco odor was so strong it made it hard for her to review them.

Readers, out of consideration for others, please take note and try to refrain from smoking when using library books. The writer of this letter isn't exaggerating.

Read more in: Health & Safety | Etiquette & Ethics