Dear Annie: I am a nonsmoker who has asthma and early heart disease. When I am at family events and outdoor concerts or entering stores and public places, I often find myself exposed to secondhand smoke from cigarettes and cigars. Even though I make every attempt to avoid this smoke, it is sometimes impossible. This results in my having burning eyes, difficulty breathing, a wet cough, etc. At times, I've needed oral and inhaled steroids because the inflammation was so severe.
I am not particularly welcome in some circles because my attempts to avoid the smoke are seen as "grandstanding" or being a ridiculous jerk. My only other option is to stay home and miss out on time with family and the concerts, festivals and other outdoor activities I enjoy.
Smokers clearly know the dangers of what they are putting in their lungs, and I respect their right to do so. Why is there no consideration or respect for those of us who cannot tolerate the effects of tobacco smoke? When did we become the bad guys who just need to suck it up (literally) or stay home?
I'm not trying to start a war between smokers and nonsmokers here. I am simply looking for intelligent, viable solutions to a common problem. - Gasping for Breath
Dear Gasping: We know how difficult this must be for you. Nonetheless, smoking is still permitted at most outdoor venues, in which case, there is little you can do other than avoid them or wear a surgical mask to act as a filter. At family functions, you can suggest that the smokers be assigned a specific area so they can puff in peace and the rest of you can breathe more easily.
Your family and close friends should be told about your medical difficulties and even given information so they understand you have a serious problem that should not be taken lightly. (Information is available through the American Lung Association at lung.org.)
Dear Annie: I'd like to express my sincerest thanks to you for your column. There are times when a person my age (85) becomes a little depressed and is in need of a bit of comic relief. Reading the letters that you receive from some of your readers renders a whole new meaning to the word "dysfunctional."
If I were on the Nobel Prize nominating committee, I would certainly vote for you in the category of "Patience and Compassion." It's sometimes difficult for me to understand how some of these people can actually manage in this world. Keep up the good work. - M. in Montreal
Dear M.: Your lighthearted letter brightened our day, although we will say that one reason we write this column is to help those who want an unbiased opinion about situations they cannot wrap their heads around. We know that it often takes an objective viewpoint to see the forest for the trees, because when you are in the middle of a crisis - unhappy, confused and hurt - it helps to have someone in your corner to steer you in a more focused direction.
We hope we can provide that for our readers. And if it holds your interest at the same time, even better. Thanks for writing.
Dear Annie: After reading the responses to "Bob in North Carolina," I agree that some women who present the news wear sexy clothes. I also believe that many of them debase themselves because they need the job.
It's a shame women can't be appreciated for their professional talents alone. But, that said, what's good for the gander is good for the goose. So let's get rid of those wrinkly, white-haired tie-and-suit men and spice up the news with younger guys showing off their arm muscles and chest hair. Maybe that would make the bleak news we hear more fun for all of us. - Fair's Fair