Dear Annie: From a young age, I understood the harmful effects of smoking, because my grandfather died of lung cancer just months before I was born. He began smoking in his teens, which is when most adults who smoke started.
Getting kids hooked early is how tobacco companies ensure that a future generation buys their products. They even create tobacco products with flavors like cherry, mint and cookies 'n' cream to appeal to young people. The result? Every day, more than 3,200 kids try their first cigarette. According to the surgeon general, 5.6 million kids alive today will die early from smoking unless we act to prevent it.
We must teach kids about the dangers of tobacco, no matter what form or flavor it comes in. I hope everyone takes a minute to learn more about how they can help by visiting tobaccofreekids.org. - Tyler Long, age 19, freshman at Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C.
Dear Tyler Long: Thank you for your letter. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first surgeon general's report on smoking and health, which made headlines with its conclusions that cigarette smoking is responsible for a 70 percent increase in the mortality rate over non-smokers, that there is a correlation between smoking and lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and coronary heart disease, and that smoking during pregnancy reduces the average weight of newborns.
This year, Kick Butts Day will be held on March 19th. This is a national day of activism empowering our young people to speak out against Big Tobacco. For more information, readers can go to kickbuttsday.org, as well as tobaccofreekids.org.
Dear Annie: I'm 17 and currently in a long-distance relationship with this awesome girl from California. We've never met in person, but we have Skyped a lot. We've been together for more than a year.
Here's the problem: I've been having doubts that we'll ever really be together. On top of that, there's this nice girl from my old school who recently admitted that she really likes me, and I'm sad to say, I like her, too. I don't want to leave my girlfriend, but I don't know what our next step would be. What should I do? - Chris in Chicago
Dear Chris: Long-distance romances can work, but they are complicated and challenging even for experienced couples. And if you are not likely to meet this girl in person for months, if not years, it doesn't give you the opportunity to learn the real-life requirements of a solid relationship.
We think you should remain friends, but give yourself the chance to meet girls in your area and allow her the same freedom. You may reconsider a romance should you ever end up in the same part of the country. If she's as awesome as you say, you will be able to discuss this with her and reach an understanding.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.