Dear Abby: I was intrigued by the letter from the spry 81-year-old woman with one equally healthy sister, at 90, and one sister with lung disease due to smoking. Her daughters — both nurses — want to make posters for all the junior and senior high schools, with pictures of the two "good" sisters climbing mountains or parasailing, and the "bad" sister in her wheelchair, complete with oxygen tank. They think it would be a great visual aid for their anti-smoking campaign.
Why stop there? Why not gather up the pathetic creature in her wheelchair and drag her and her oxygen tank around the junior and senior high schools in person? Her sisters could do cartwheels while she was being exhibited. Maybe they could also provide stones to throw at the evil one.
I've seen letters in your column suggesting that when someone dies of lung disease, the obituary should make that known, and should mention that the dear departed was a smoker (preferably "heavy smoker"). Yet so far I haven't noticed any calls for obituaries noting that "Jane died of a heart attack. She was obese because she ate everything that didn't bite back." Or, "Henry died of liver disease because he drank like a fish." There's no end to the pleasure we could take in looking down our noses at those people who are not as virtuous as we are.
My mother died of emphysema. I wish she had lived longer, but I thank God for letting me have the kind of mother she was. She was kind, compassionate and never judged anyone harshly, except for people who hurt others. She was the opposite of your smug, sanctimonious, holier-than-thou anti-smoking zealot and her sisters.
To me, anti-smoking fanatics are among the most self-righteous, contemptible, vicious people infesting the world today.— Fed Up With Cold-Hearted Hypocrites
Dear Fed Up: I'm sorry the letter hurt or offended you. Frankly, I thought her idea was terrific — and so did many of my readers:
Dear Abby: I have been a nurse for 28 years. I have never seen a more painful, suffering death than one caused by smoking. Pain meds cannot relieve the fact that the very act of breathing has been robbed from them. They slowly suffocate to death. They and their loved ones plead for us, the medical profession, to turn the oxygen higher. Their eyes plead with you. I cry with them and again where they can't see me. I hold them, love them, but the real answer is and will always be "STOP SMOKING!"
I say, "Go, girls, go!" Thank you wonderful ladies for wanting to contribute to society in your golden years. You are remarkable. Please, don't waste a minute getting that advertisement made. Post it everywhere — including billboards and TV. — P.K., Chantilly, Va.
Dear P.K.: Amen! I, too, hope they follow through. Read on:
Dear Abby: The concept of a poster of the three sisters with the caption, "Guess Which Sister Smoked for 40 Years" is terrific. I work as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society on the Tobacco Control Committee at both the state and local levels. I'd love to access those pictures and see if they could be produced for use in schools. It would be terrific to have authentic people on the poster.
Thank you for your help and awareness of the longest running public health promotion in the United States — the Great American Smokeout. — Carol M. Allen, Amarillo, Texas
Dear Carol: Having lost three beloved relatives to cancer because of smoking, I'm pleased to speak out about the danger. Smokers: "Ask not for whom the bell tolls — it tolls for thee."
Pauline Phillips and her daughter Jeanne Phillips share the pseudonym Abigail Van Buren. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069. © Universal Press Syndicate