Dear Annie: My younger brother, "Gary," is 27 years old and lives in a two-bedroom apartment. I recently found out from a mutual friend that he is living with "Debbie," a 17-year-old dropout. This girl quit high school, had a fight with her parents and showed up on Gary's doorstep asking to use his spare bedroom. He reluctantly agreed to let her stay temporarily. On the second night there, Debbie decided to sleep in Gary's bed, and you can guess what happened.
I love my brother, and he is the most considerate and straitlaced person I know, but he is very immature when it comes to the opposite sex. I was shocked by his bad judgment and asked what he possibly could have been thinking. Gary said he didn't know Debbie was underage until after the fact. He worried about what Debbie's parents might do. As it turns out, her parents were glad their daughter wasn't living on the streets.
Debbie will be 18 in four months, but isn't this still against the law? I can't believe her parents are so nonchalant about it. My parents live out of state and know nothing about it. Should I tell them? Should I express my concerns to Debbie's parents or just hope that Gary will come to his senses? — Disappointed Sister
Dear Sister: The age of consent varies by state, and even in states where the age is 18, there are variations on the severity of the punishment. But we agree that if this is illegal in your state, Gary could be in a world of trouble. Decide what you hope to accomplish by telling your parents or chastising Debbie's folks. Then urge Gary to help this almost-adult find a decent job and her own place. Soon.
Dear Annie: My husband is a chain cigar smoker. He refuses to acknowledge that the secondhand smoke is hazardous to my son and me, not to mention to his own health.
Somewhere along the way, he was convinced that cigars aren't as bad as cigarettes. However, I think the secondhand smoke is heavier and therefore more dangerous to those around him. Any information you can provide on the dangers would be appreciated. — Frustrated Nonsmoker
Dear Frustrated: Insist that your husband smoke outside. According to the American Cancer Society, cigars give off more secondhand smoke than cigarettes because they contain more tobacco and often burn longer. One large cigar can contain as much tobacco as a pack of cigarettes. All tobacco smoke, regardless of the source, is known to cause cancer. Secondhand smoke from cigars contains toxins and carcinogens, just like cigarettes. And because the cigar wrapper is less porous, the tobacco doesn't burn as completely, and the result is a higher concentration of nitrogen oxides, ammonia, carbon monoxide and tar.
Regular cigar smokers are four to 10 times more likely to die from cancers of the lung, lip, oral cavity, esophagus and larynx than nonsmokers. For those who inhale, cigar smoke appears to be linked to death from cancer of the pancreas and bladder, and also increases the risk of heart and lung diseases.
Dear Annie: I loved that you told "Head in the Clouds" to go ahead and live in Ireland after college graduation. She can invite discouraging family members to visit, and maybe they will understand. I, too, had a passionate desire to travel, and although I managed to see most of the U.S. and Canada, I didn't go abroad until I was 47. Europe enriched my life so much, and my only regret is not having gone sooner. The history, the languages, the architecture, the art, the people, even the food added immeasurably to my life and will enrich hers. It helped me understand where I came from, and I looked at America with new eyes each time I returned. — Salem, Ore.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.