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Dear Ann Landers: I feel compelled to respond to "Mad in Indianapolis," who asked you to leave smokers alone. He said smoking is one of his few pleasures in life, and he is going to continue to smoke so he can "die happy." As a lung doctor, I have yet to witness the happy death of any patient with smoking-related lung disease. Death comes only after years of misery. "Indianapolis" also said, "Most of the trouble smokers get into is their own darn fault." Perhaps so, but they still deserve compassion.

I am unable to determine if this man is in denial or simply addicted. I can say, however, that he is misinformed. He stated, "Over the centuries, war has killed, maimed and cost our country a heck of a lot more than cigarettes." This is not true. More than 400,000 Americans die prematurely every year from smoking-related diseases. Compare this to the 57,000 Americans who died in Vietnam, the 54,000 who died in Korea, the 405,000 who died in World War II and the 116,000 who died in World War I.

Tragic as war may be, it can at least be said that these Americans died for their country. What are smokers dying for?
-- Pulmonologist in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Dear Doctor: Thank you for a fine rebuttal. Here's one more on the subject:

Dear Ann Landers: When I was 10, I experimented with cigarettes. At 17, I pretended to smoke in order to "belong." The coach found out, and it cost me my position on the track team. At 35, I was smoking three packs a day, coughing, wheezing and short of breath.

One afternoon, my beloved stepmother came to my office unexpectedly. She had never done that before, and I was taken by surprise. She sat across from me, lighted up a cigarette and blew the smoke right in my face. She had always been so warm and friendly, I was at a loss to understand what I considered a hostile gesture. She looked me square in the eye and said: "I have just been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Now will you quit smoking?"

That very night, I used aversion therapy and smoked 2 1/2 packs. It helped a lot. I felt lousy. For several years, I kept that last half-pack on my desk as a reminder. Today, I am nearly 70 and basically in good health. I consider myself lucky. My stepmother is gone now, but I bless the memory of her every day of my life.
-- Grateful in Rochester
Dear Grateful: I hope your letter will motivate a large number of nicotine addicts to drop the habit. Smokers: Are you listening? It could save your life. Try the patch. Chew gum. Go for hypnosis. Take up yoga. Do whatever it takes, but for the sake of those who love you, stop smoking.

Faith restored

Dear Ann Landers: My wife and I went to Atlantic City for the weekend, and I lost my wallet. Just when I thought the world was going to hell, something happened that changed my mind.

The Wednesday after our return home, I went to the mailbox, and there I found a yellow envelope with my wallet and everything intact. There was no name or address to identify the person who sent it. The postmark was Baltimore, Md. Writing to you, Ann, is the only way I can think of to thank the party who returned it.

I want to let the person who found it know that my faith in mankind has been restored.
-- Maple Shade, N.J.
Dear N.J.: Here's your letter. I hope that Good Samaritan sees it.

Gem of the day

The trouble with life is, you're halfway through before you realize it's a do-it-yourself project.

Write to Ann at The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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