DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Concerned Daughter-in-Law," whose mother-in-law continued to smoke after being diagnosed with emphysema and deteriorating lungs, brought back some painful memories for me.
My mother was diagnosed with the same condition and she, too, continued to smoke. Her reason was that she was going to die anyway, so she might as well enjoy the only little "pleasure" left in life. It tore at my heart to watch her take her oxygen treatment from the machine beside her chair and, afterward, reach for her cigarettes.
She had to use a walker to navigate the 20 or so steps from her chair to the bathroom. When she returned, she was gasping for breath as if she had run the marathon. How I wished that any young person just beginning to smoke could see her -- and possibly keep from making the same mistake. It took her three long years to die from this horrible disease.
Abby, please continue your campaign to discourage young people from starting this terrible, addictive habit, so their loved ones will not have to go through the pain of watching them die a slow, painful death. -- CAROL MASON, COSTA MESA, CALIF.
DEAR CAROL: You have my promise -- as long as there is breath in my body -- that I will do exactly that. But first, ANOTHER warning: No one should EVER "light up" in the vicinity of supplemental oxygen, which is extremely flammable. I heard about a woman who received third-degree burns to her face because she lit a cigarette before her oxygen was completely turned off and the flames melted the plastic breathing tubes onto her skin.
What young smokers fail to realize is that smoking causes changes in brain chemistry and creates a dependency. Tobacco companies recruit new smokers to replace the ones who escape the tentacles of the addiction, or who die from smoking-related illnesses. So, while adolescents and teens may take up the habit to appear "hot," "cool," or grown-up, breaking the habit may require not only iron will, but medical intervention. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: This is in response to the reader whose mother-in-law was diagnosed with emphysema and continued smoking.
When I was an actively practicing pharmacist, I saw similar scenarios with several people who were unable to give up nicotine in the face of the additional stress of the diagnosis. However, SOME of them were able to switch to "cleaner" alternatives such as a nicotine patch, gum or inhaler and avoid the pollutants of cigarettes that cause lung damage. (They were also not dangerous around oxygen tanks.)
Their doctors were willing to continue the prescriptions as long as necessary so their patients would avoid cigarettes. If "Concerned" really cannot get her mother-in-law to seek a second opinion right now, perhaps she could suggest one of these alternatives. -- ELAINE DISNEY, CARROLLTON, TEXAS
DEAR ELAINE: What a terrific suggestion, and I hope it will spark interest in anyone who has been advised by a doctor to quit smoking -- but has tried and failed.