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11:40 PM Sat, Nov. 17th

Annie's Mailbox: Don’t quit on Dad, who’s still smoking

Dear Annie: My dad has been a smoker for his whole life, which is why we were all so proud of him when he announced that he had successfully quit several months ago. I was elated. It had been an ongoing argument between my parents throughout my childhood. It always stressed me out to hear them fighting about it. It feels so good to know that my dad actually cares about his health and knows that we care, too. He’s even taken up jogging, something he was never able to do before because he’d start hacking up a lung.

However, the most recent time I visited home (I’m away at college), I caught my dad smoking outside in the garage one night. I quickly turned away, and I know he doesn’t know that I caught him, but I am so devastated. My whole family would be devastated. The next day, I asked him how the not-smoking thing was going, seeing whether he’d confess, and he just said, “Great!” I feel so betrayed that he could just flat out lie about it. Along with feeling upset, I am torn when it comes to handling this situation because I know I can’t keep it to myself. My mom works so hard and cares so much. I don’t like seeing her lied to. I feel as if she deserves to know the truth. Now I’m just trying to figure out how to go about dropping this bomb on her when I know it will just break her heart and my dad will be angry. How do I do this? – Nonsmoker Son

Dear Nonsmoker: So he had a slip-up? Surprise! Your dad’s human. Cigarettes are highly addictive, and he’s been smoking his whole life.

Talk to him about the matter privately. Be compassionate and try to understand where he’s coming from. On average, it takes eight to 11 tries before a smoker successfully stops for good. Don’t quit on him.

Dear Annie: I’ve learned that there is a difference between constructive criticism and just hurting someone’s feelings, and I’m having a hard time separating the two right now.

My friend is a loud chewer. She smacks her food. She talks with her mouth full. She slurps. It is disgusting. I find it incredible that somebody could get away with being raised that way, but the rest of her family is the same way, so she clearly has no idea.

She really is a great girl and one of my closest friends, but this is a major pet peeve. Also, she complains about how she never gets asked on second dates, and I can’t help but wonder whether this is why.

I just don’t know whether that kind of habit is one that can be easily broken, and I worry for her. I don’t know how to go about telling her that she is being gross when she eats without having it come out in a way that would just hurt her feelings. All I know is I feel a responsibility to do something about this. What do you think I should do? -- Quiet Friend

Dear Quiet: I don’t doubt that her dates have had allergic reactions to these “see-food” dinners. Few things are less attractive than chewing with one’s mouth open.

Tell her, in a gentle way, that it might be beneficial for her to watch out and make sure she is conscious of how she is eating. You’ll be doing her a huge favor. Good friends are honest friends -- even when it means telling a pal she eats like Cookie Monster (in much politer terms, of course).

Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com. To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.