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GREAT AMERICAN SMOKEOUT STARTS

Dear Abby: I lost my spouse - the love of my life - to lung cancer. It is unbelievable what a person has to endure with this disease. The biopsy, diagnosis, rounds of chemo, X-rays, scans, needles, poking and prodding. The prognosis is usually poor unless it is caught early enough to be surgically treated.

When I see people smoking, I want to stop and tell them what my husband went through, struggling to breathe - even on oxygen. Being dependent on someone else for care. Difficulty walking distances - even to the bathroom. My husband endured multiple hospitalizations, fighting off pneumonia, being tethered to an IV. All the caregiver can do is watch someone he or she adores die a little more one day at a time.

Why can't smokers understand that one puff isn't worth the heavy price? There are plenty of other things that can make you ill or kill you. Please don't add cigarettes - something you CAN control.

Toss the smokes! Give them up, or better yet, NEVER START. You may think you have plenty of time, but the love of my life was only 49. Do this for yourself and for those who love and care about you.

- K.O. in Missouri

Dear K.O.: Please accept my deepest sympathy for your loss. Your letter is a timely one because today marks the 26th annual Great American Smokeout. For those who do not already know, the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout is the day that smokers can challenge themselves to quit smoking - if only for just one day.

Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in our society, yet an estimated 47 million adults in the United States currently smoke. And youth smoking seems to be on the rise. (Between 1991 and 1999, smoking among high school students rose substantially from 28 percent to 35 percent.)

This year approximately 169,400 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, and 154,000 will die of the disease. Research has also brought to light other tobacco-related cancers, including cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, uterine cervix, kidney and bladder.

So, Dear Readers, if you're hooked on tobacco and have been saying, "One of these days I've got to quit," please take my advice and start now. Join the Great American Smokeout and quit today.

For more information about how to get involved in the Great American Smokeout and to learn about tobacco cessation strategies, call (800) 227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.

After the fact

Dear Abby: My boyfriend and I have been together for 10 years. We have decided to elope.

I want to let my family know about the marriage, but I'm not sure how to go about it. Are announcements OK, or do they seem like a request for presents? I am clueless about the proper thing to do. Thanks a bunch!

- Wondering in South Elgin, Ill.

Dear Wondering: Wedding announcements after your elopement are a perfectly acceptable way to let friends and family members know the happy news. Only those who accept wedding invitations are expected to give gifts. However, relatives and close friends will probably want to present you with a "token" gift of some kind to mark the occasion.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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