Dear Ann:

Some months ago, I was diagnosed with a disease that my doctor said would be aggravated by cigarettes, even though the disease itself was not caused by smoking. For me, this was a no-brainer -- give up smoking.

Several of my co-workers smoke, but not at work, because it is not allowed in our building. One of these co-workers recently had surgery to replace veins in his legs. He was advised by his surgeon to quit smoking, but continues to puff away. Another co-worker had a quadruple bypass, but continues to smoke a pack-and-a-half a day. A third co-worker developed a cancerous growth on his tongue, but continues to smoke like a chimney.

These people share my group insurance policy, and frankly, I am mad as hell. As my premiums go up, I am tempted to tell the bookkeeper to attach my increases to the bills of the smokers. It is not fair that we should all be penalized by people too selfish to get their own insurance, who instead insist on raising our premiums by continuing with their destructive behavior.

I know there is probably no solution other than for insurance companies to drop the policies of people who continue to smoke against medical advice, but I really needed to vent my anger in a public way.

-- Smoking Mad in Minnesota

You came to the right place. I am pleased to give you space in which to vent your anger. We now know that smoking is more than just a filthy habit, it is an addiction. I have only one close friend who smokes, and she has the decency to excuse herself when she feels the need to light up. Need I say, I appreciate it.

Dear Ann:

I am in a relationship with a wonderful, caring man I will call "Ed." We are both widowed and senior citizens. Before our spouses died, we were a foursome, and the two of us later found strength and comfort in one another.

My problem is with Ed's son, "John," his only child. John is 49 years old. He left home when he was 21, and started living life in the fast lane. He never has held a full-time job and has been in and out of rehab for drug abuse. When his mother died, John received a sizable inheritance, and blew it all within two years. The only time he contacted his father was when he needed financial help. Five years ago, he phoned Ed and asked if he could move back home.

John now lives with his father and has turned what was once a lovely house into a pigsty. He is a lazy, selfish slob who leaves dirty dishes all over the place and dirty clothes on the floor, and his father has to clean up after him. Ed was once energetic and loved to travel. Now he has lost interest in everything. Just recently he was so stressed out, he had to be hospitalized for several days.

Ann, please advise me. Should I butt out? I just want to see this wonderful man enjoy his golden years.

-- No Name, No State

I do not recommend that you try to talk sense into Ed about his son, because if you do, you will be the loser. Unfortunately, Ed is so grateful to have his son back in his life that he is willing to put up with John's slovenly ways and stress-inducing behavior.

But please don't abandon Ed. He needs you now more than ever. Offer him a refuge by asking him over to your home for dinner, and invite him to go dancing and see a movie now and then. Give him the name of a good cleaning service so he doesn't have to pick up after his slob of a son. And let's hope John grows up soon and decides it's time he made a decent life for himself.

(C) 1999, Creators Syndicate Inc.