By Abigail Van Buren
DEAR ABBY: It bothers me greatly to know that so many children continue to start smoking at an early age. My husband and I did that, and now we're paying an awful price. We have had emphysema for years. Four of our children also took up the habit. I finally started paying them to quit ($100 every two weeks they didn't smoke -- up to five payments).
I decided to head off the temptation our grandchildren would face. We told them if they didn't start smoking by the age of 18, we'd pay them $2,000. So far, seven of the 10 have collected a nice check on their 18th birthday, and we expect the remaining three to collect in turn. They have grown up understanding that cigarettes are "gross" and, if they start smoking, it will cost them a lot of money!
Abby, you're the best way to spread ideas. I hope you will think it worthwhile to pass this one along. -- DO AS I SAY, GAINESVILLE, FLA.
DEAR DO AS I SAY: I'm passing it along, but frankly, I'm not crazy about bribery. One would think that, having witnessed firsthand the serious health issues you and your husband are experiencing, your grandchildren would have understood what awaited them if they took up the habit.
The tobacco industry has done a huge disservice to young people by marketing their products to them -- and not just in the form of cigarettes, but also with flavored chewing tobacco, which is equally addictive. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, nearly 90 percent of smokers start by age 18.
In 2006, U.S. District Judge Gladys E. Kessler of Washington, D.C., ruled the major cigarette manufacturers were guilty of fraud and racketeering under the federal RICO Act. (When the tobacco companies appealed, the Supreme Court rejected it without comment.)
She wrote that for more than 50 years the tobacco industry "lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people they avidly sought as 'replacement smokers,' about the devastating effects of smoking....
"They suppressed research, they destroyed documents, they manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction, they distorted the truth ... so as to discourage smokers from quitting."
It is extremely important that young people be educated about -- and prevented from -- using tobacco. Smokers who start as teenagers increase their chances of becoming addicted. Think about it: reduced lung function, early heart disease, cancer, asthma, disfigurement. Yes -- it could happen to YOU.
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY TO MY READERS: Thanks to you, writing this column is a love-in every day of the year.
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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