Monthly Archives: October 2015

2015-10-15 P-D: “Dear Abby” gets it wrong! … Or does she?

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In today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch Everyday section (page EV3), “Dear Abby,” aka Abigail Van Buren, addresses a letter from a concerned smoke-sensitive non-smoker. My initial reaction was that Abby’s advice was lacking sensitivity for the non-smoker and plain wrong. But then I had second thoughts.

(My wife commented that Carolyn Hax, who writes a similar column, would give a more nuanced response with several options and the consequence of each.)

What do you think?

Actually, it reminds me of my situation and my wife’s French family, many of whom were smokers, including an older sister who was also a medical doctor!

Back then, of course, “doctors” were recommending cigarette brands, such as Camel, as in this ad on the Stanford School of Medicine website at

R. J. Reynolds campaign which ran from 1940 to 1949 and claimed that

R. J. Reynolds campaign which ran from 1940 to 1949 and claimed that “More Doctors smoke Camels.”

Here’s the letter and response:

Dear Abby: My husband and I have been married 10 years. Half of his family are smokers. Every year, there has been a family gathering at his dad’s house. Since the birth of my first child, smoking has become forbidden in that home.

This year, however, the party will be held at the home of another where smoking will be permitted. I can’t handle smoke. It gives me a sore throat and I cough for a week after exposure. Because of my reaction and for the health of my children, I don’t want to attend. (When we get home we have to immediately shower and launder our clothing to get rid of the smell.)

My husband is adamant that we SHOULD attend and bring the kids. He was raised around smoking and doesn’t see what the “big deal” is. What can I say or do to convince him not to force me and our children to be exposed to the health hazards of secondhand smoke? Am I being unreasonable because it’s only one night a year?

— Hater of smoking in West Virginia

Dear Hater Of Smoking: I think so. Much as you might like, you can’t raise your children in a bubble. I would hate to see you isolate your children from their aunts, uncles, cousins and any grandparents who are still alive during their once-a-year holiday celebration. If you would prefer not to attend because you can’t stand the smell of the smoke, stay home. But do not prevent your children from knowing the family. Assuming they don’t have health issues, one evening of exposure to cigarette smoke shouldn’t be harmful.

Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.