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Dear BPN Community
I am at my wits end. My husband of 30 years has dreadful periodontal disease,
has been cigarette-free for 5 years but is now smoking cigars. I asked his
Periodontist if cigar smoking was harmful to the gums and he conceded that yes,
definitely, any kind of smoke will compromise the gums. This information made
little impression on my husband.
Meanwhile, each of my husband's 6 annual cleaning cost several hundred dollars
(we have no dental insurance) and on-going surgical procedures are significantly
more. I feel like we are just burning money.
Anytime I bring up the subject, he becomes almost violent, yelling, leaving the
house, and denies that he is addicted, claiming its nothing like cigarette
smoking. While he doesn't smoke in the house, the smell clings to his clothes,
and if he doesn't shower immediately, he smells so dreadful it makes me feel
physically ill. Occasionally he will smoke in the yard, and the smell gets in
the house. What do I do? He seems so rational on other subjects, but this one
can not be broached from any angle without hysteria and flat out refusal. Thanks
in advance for your suggestions.
Repulsed & Stumped by Cigars
I would say you need to get a new husband (I couldn't stand the cigar smell
period). No really, maybe you need to withdraw on certain activities you share
with him that he enjoys (sex), as you ''just can't get that close to the cigar
You are more tolerant than myself. Kudos to you.
I Hate cigars
My husband is a former smoker and also has gum disease. He has not
smoked for 13 years. The gum disease isn't going away, your husband
will likely continue to have many cleanings each year and occasional
surgery. My husband has also lost teeth due to gum disease so you can
look forward to the cost of implants. If your husband quits smoking he is
not miraculously going to have healthy, inexpensive gums. Your posting
doesn't seem to be about his health (gum disease is correlated to heart
disease) but about the cost, smell, etc, In other words, it's about you. I
would give him some space (stop nagging) and then ask him if he could be
more attentive to where he smokes and to showering, etc, in other words
address those issues that seem to be most important to you. Then
progress on to reducing and quitting. But his dental bills are not going
away as soon as he quits....or even 13 years later. IMHO, if he was only
smoking one cigar and kept the smoke and smell under control, I'd back off.
I did not nag my husband into quitting, he decided on his own to quit and
figured out how he could do it.
Give the man some space
Your poor husband! Poor you! Tobacco is a very complicated
addiction. From my own experience as a former smoker and
from my observations of my family's smoking life, I know
that smoking is a powerful way to manage emotions
(particularly anger), to organize time and help with
executive functioning challenges, to improve productivity,
to energize as well as tranquilize, and to medicate deep
psychic wounds. It is also most definitely a way to lose all
your teeth--apparently many periodontists will not even
accept smokers as new patients--and all kinds of other nasty
outcomes. But a long-term smoker's relationship with the
drug is usually pretty soulful, even if the smoker can't put
it into words. It's certainly beyond logic. It's like the
bad boyfriend you keep being drawn to like a moth to a
flame, only you keep him in your pocket.
He will have to give up the cigars, but it will be like the
loss of a soulmate to him, and there will be grief. Try to
hold on to your empathy during this process. And good luck!
after 15 yrs. I still miss smoking
Your husband is in denial like all addicts and I feel
sorry for both of you. It doesn't matter if it's in
cigarette, cigar, pipe or chewing tobacco form; it's like
an alcoholic who thinks that drinking beer instead of
vodka is somehow better.
If you can afford it through health insurance or out of
pocket, I strongly urge you to see a marriage and/or
addiction counselor -- together if he will go -- but go to
the first appointment on your own to get your head
together and get some advice on how to approach him.
Addiction is addiction. No matter what the substance is,
the fact that he is jeopardizing his health and marriage
and can't stop shows how really in the grip of it he is.
Best of luck to you
This sounds like a losing battle to me. I think that you
should just let him have his one vice and deal with the
Everyone needs one vice
I went fishing last Fall with somebody in the same
boat-but worse. The guy had a horrible cough and was smoking
cigars like cigarettes. I asked another guy what the deal
was and was told he had been a long time cigarette smoker
who tried to quit by switching to cigars. Problem was he now
inhaled the cigars which supposedly is more
potent/addictive/dangerous than the cigarettes were. I was
sure he wouldn't make the next fishing trip in 2012.
One answer is your husband has to understand and accept he
has an addiction to nicotine-no different than caffeine,
diet soda, or heroin. Once over that biggest hurdle it is a
matter of tapering off the daily dose slowly. First option
is nicotine patches or gum to get the nicotine another way
without the need to smoke to get it, then taper down. As
long as the body gets the nicotine it craves it doesn't
really care how it gets it. The body can adapt to slow
change fairly easily so a taper is much more tolerable than
just stopping cold turkey. If that isn't do-able then the
next option is to add Zyban or perhaps Chantix to the
patches (though it's off label it works). He could walk away
from years of smoking within a couple weeks with
This is slightly a different perspective as I know what you
really want is for him to stop smoking cigars.
I too always had many problems even tho I did everything
perfect, flossed, brushed, had cleaning every 3 months etc
my gums kept receding altho they never bleed when brushed.
Everytime I went to the periodontist they took a bacteria
sample that showed I had bad bacteria still in my mouth and
always put me on antibiotics.
After many years of this I just stopped and started a
different approach. One thing that can really help the mouth
self clean is GOOD bacteria so I started focusing on getting
enough good bacteria in my digestive system by making my own
sauerkraut etc but one can also do it just be buying some
probitotics. The other thing is to clean the mouth first
thing in the morning with a spoon of sesame seed oil - just
whish it around the mouth until it gets thick (3-5 minutes)
and then spit it out. Sounds weird I know but really helpful.
So for me know 6 years after quiting those quarterly
cleanings (now I do it just once a year) my mouth gums have
not gotten any worse and overall feel healthier.
I know this doesn't help with the smell on the clothes etc
but you may find that it helps somewhat the smell in the
mouth and the health of the mouth.
I smoked cigars for 20 years and I can tell you without any
doubt that your husband IS addicted to nicotine. I quit
cigars and I quite alcohol, and alcohol is easier. There is
actually a 12 step program for nicotine adiction, and your
husband is a classic denier. It's a huge health issue for
anyone, especially him with his gum disease. Do you have
grown kids? Have you thought about an ''intervention?'' This
is a tough one, and you're going to have to be strong. Best
I'm writing this in loving memory of my father, Noel. It's
been almost 20 years, and I miss him every day, and it broke
my mother's heart.
Let your husband know how hard it's gonna be when he gets
cancer. Not just for himself, for everyone who loves him.
My dad smoked cigarettes for years, from the age of 7 to
about 60. He had a nasty cough, but never seemed to have
developed lung cancer. He switched to pipe and cigars about
age 60, hoping to slow himself down. This didn't work. He
still smoked constantly.
When he developed throat cancer, part of his tongue had to
be removed. And within 12 hours after surgery, my mom
smuggled in a cigar for him and he smoked it out the window
at the hospital (this was in Ireland, where you can open the
windows), because he could not bear withdrawal, even though
he was on morphine for pain.
Horrible crusty painful white thrush infections grew in his
mouth and throat due to chemo side effects.
You can show your husband a similar photo here:
They might give your dear one pause before he lights a
Doctors placed a radioactive stud in his mouth to keep the
cancer growth at bay. You know how it feels when you bite
your tongue? Only it never stops.
We won't even elaborate about the vomiting.
Dad lived miserably on Ensure milkshakes (sometimes mixed
with coffee) for about 3 months. My dad lost 40 lbs,
including a lot of atrophied muscle. Supposedly they ''beat''
the cancer, but at what price? He died from heart failure at
the age of 68.
Smoking isn't just a habit, it's a lifestyle. Your husband
will need support - from doctors, from others trying to
quit, from family and friends. He'll need something to do
with his mouth; something to do with his hands; some other
way to punctuate the activities he's always started and
stopped with smoking. I pray he finds a solution that works
for him. My dad simply didn't have the self-esteem to quit
for himself, but I think if he'd known how hard it would be
on my mom, he was codependent enough to do it for her.
Someone suggested letting your husband have one vice. I'd
warmly recommend French kissing, knitting, collecting comic
books, or playing harmonica. Anything but what he's been doing.
I wish you and your husband a life of happiness and health
...miss my dad
A family member insists that he can't confide in his doctor
about a smoking problem, or his insurance rates will go up.
This sounds ridiculous to me--if you can't tell your doctor
that you smoke, how can he/she appropriately understand your
medical conditions? Who's right?
Both of you are right. The doctor's records will be
requested by your family member's insurance provider. In
addition, if he declares on an insurance document that he
doesn't smoke when, in fact, he does he may get dropped for
making a factual misrepresentation. Those kind of things
If your family member is being treated for anything that
may be in any way related to smoking, he should confide his
smoking to his doctor - end of story. If he's healthy now,
keeping his smoking a secret might work for a while but
odds are that the smoking will eventually contribute to
some sort of health issue, the onset of which will make it
obvious that he smokes and the resolution of which will
require he fess up. At that point, his insurance company
may re-visit the earlier issue of whether he ever lied to
them. Your family member doesn't want his insurance
discontinued just when his doctor is starting to treat him
for a persistent cough or inquire into a spot on his chest
Your family member will face fewer future problems if he
confesses his smoking and pays the higher rate. He can
consider it added incentive to quit.
For even more incentive, remember that quitting smoiking is
considered the single most important change one can make to
improve one's health. For a ''normal'' person, moderate
alcohol consumption, over eating, and not exercising, taken
together do not come close to doing the damage smoking
you smoke you will get DECLINED!!
hate smoking but smoker is right here
He should definitely tell his doctor and it may indeed
affect his insurance rates at some point, which is all the
more incentive to quit smoking. Sacrificing health for
money is just plain dumb.
We are looking into buying life insurance. My husband is a
casual nicotine user. By that, I mean, he keeps a pack of
smokes in the car and maybe smokes 2 cigarettes a week. He also
chews tobacco maybe once a week. So here is the question: how
do we answer the nicotine use question? It may sound like I'm
trying to scam the insurer but I'm really trying to get at the
gradations of use. If we decided to say that he doesn't use,
how do they check? Are we just setting ourselves up for not
getting the policy payout because of covering up the casual
usage? Also, related question: if I am successful at convincing
my husband to completely quit, can I just put him down as a
permanent non-user since his prior usage has always been so de
minimus? Thanks! Just trying to get some facts here.
Nicotine can be tested for (I forget whether it's blood or urine)
and any life insurance company is going to put you through a
whole battery of tests. Although the nicotine goes out of the
system in a couple of days, the breakdown product, Continine, can
show up for a couple of weeks, even with light tobacco use.
It's better that he quit and then he can honestly be listed as a
non-smoker. If they ask about past use, it's up to you to decide
if you want to admit to any at all, or say light use many years
ago. If he should develop a possibly tobacco related illness in
the future and your insurance company becomes involved, they will
want to do the test again for nicotine and continine, and if they
find any, your policy could be invalidated.
I've had the same quandary- though fortunately my husband
finally quit smoking (though he's been on nicotine gum for 2
yrs now!!). Here are the considerations: 1) insurance company
probably will not do anything to determine his smoking status
2) only risk is if it shows up anywhere in his medical records-
but again, they generally don't dig that deep. So, you could
go ''undiscovered''. Unfortunately, I don't think they'll take
into consideration how little he smokes. The only big risk,
though a tiny one- if your husband became afflicted with lung
cancer, or anything else that could be smoking related, and
dies, they may do an investigation at that point and disallow
the claim if they find any evidence of misinformation on the
application. Ugly, but true.
An attorney friend of mine told me about a case he dealt with-
man's wife kills him (gunshot/tried to fake it as a a suicide)-
then his kids tried to collect on his life insurance. The
insurance company did an investigation, and disallowed the
claim because the man failed to disclose that he was taking
flying lessons when he applied. Of course the flying lessons
had no impact on the bullet that killed him, but they had the
grounds to deny it.
No easy answer, you just have to determine your own risk
I know from experience that blood is drawn before the policy is
issued and checked for nicotine use (as well as illicit drugs.)
About a month before we signed up for insurance and received the
visit by the health screener, I was finally able to convince my
husband to give up recreational smoking: Our insurance premium
would be literally TWICE as much each month for those occasional
cigarettes. He gave up the cigarettes. But I did lie on the
application about his using tobacco products ''in the last 18
months.'' You'd have to take your own moral temperature to decide
if honesty to the insurance company is worth the extra money each
month. I'd rather the 40 bucks go to my kids (it does!), while my
husband continues to stay smoke-free.
Not Proud, Butts Out
You're wasting your money if you're not honest. If your husband
dies of anything heart or lung related and the diagnosis is
related to smoking, the insurance company would likely deny the
No need to lie. They'll find it in his urine or blood. They
take samples and run them before they give you the insurance. My
friend hadn't used pot for a long time (and said he didn't use
it), but it showed up in his blood test, so his policy cost a
little bit more than his wife's. Don't even bother lying about
nicotine use, just consider putting a flier on mouth and throat
cancer in your husband's chewing tobacco pouch. I'll bet it is
the heightened cancer risk from the chew that will send his
insurance rates up.
As someone who works for the public agency that oversees these
companies my advice is to be completely truthful. If an event
happens where a payout is due Insurance companies will
scrutinze your application with 10 fine tooth combs to try and
find some reason not to pay - if they find a misreprentation on
your application, they can rescind your policy leaving you with
nothing (except they will refund your premiums paid). How do
they find out? Who knows but they always do.
the whole truth and nothing but
My sense is that insurance companies use anything they can to
minimize or deny paying benefits, including casual lies on policy
applications. Is it likely they would find out? Maybe. They
often conduct physicals as part of the underwriting process, and
may discover his tobacco use during that process. I would answer
Just my 2 cents
I am a little disappointed in the answers to this question which
seem to revolve around whether the insurance company will catch
you or not. The question is about current nicotine use - the
answer is yes, your husband uses nicotine. If the insurance
company wanted gradations, they would have asked, but I believe
the question is phrased for a yes or no answer.
If you thought your husband was cheating on you and you
confronted him, would you want his answer based on 1) whether he
thought he would get caught in a lie, and 2) based on gradations
of what he had done? I don't think so.
Help! Here's the situation: nobody in this family smokes. None of our family
members smoke. None of our friends smoke. Except for one friend, who lives in
NYC, who came to visit for one week. In that one week, which occurred 2 months
ago, my toddler saw her smoke two cigarettes outside. Since then, he has become
OBSESSED with pretend smoking. He ''smokes'' crayons, pens, straws, sticks, you
name it. My husband and I are totally freaked out. We've tried just ignoring the
behavior and downplaying when he'd say, all excited, ''Mama! Look, I make
(good grief). We've tried telling him that smoking is yucky and that we don't
We've tried taking the crayons, etc away when he uses it as a cigarette. We've
showing him that the ''real'' way to ''make smoke'' is to light some incense.
works. He loves to pretend to ''make smoke'' and its now one of his favorite
activities. The crazy part is that he's never seen another adult smoke before or
again! I'm shocked and amazed at the power that the two cigarettes had with him.
He didn't even know my friend very well yet and was quite shy with her. Ugh.
do I do????
When I was a kid, I and everyone I knew used to LOVE candy
cigarettes. And those bubblegum cigars. We'd pretend to smoke
all the time. Heck, we'd go to the family pizza restaurant with
my parents and my brother and I would both ''light up'' our
breadsticks. Neither of my parents ever smoked in front of us
(my dad quit before either of us kids were born and my mom was
a vociferous, maniacal agent against smoking of any kind).
Anyway, my brother and I didn't grow up to smoke in grade
school, junior high, high school, or college. There are other
forces that drive kids to smoke these days. Like watching the
Real World on MTV, where all the kids smoke on camera.
I would say don't freak out so much because you're kid is going
to wonder why it's got your number so bad and might *want* to
experiment later on. Jeez, your kid might even like your crazy
reaction to every time he says he's smoking!
-''Smoked'' cancer-free candy cigarettes
As hard as this will be, ignore it. It will pass.
Just to give you a bit of perspective: I grew up in a household
where both my parents smoked. I was raised in Europe and we
celebrated Santa Claus (similar to the Christmas celebration
here) and we would always get a little packet of chocolate
cigarettes from Santa Claus. I loved those! I loved pretending
that I smoked. It was just a pretend game, like pretending I
was ironing or vacuuming. I come from a family of 5 children
and none of us smoke. All of us played pretend smoking with
those chocolate cigarettes, but that really didn't harm or
taint us for life. It was fun at that age. That's all. Once we
became teenagers and each had to face the facts of smoking, we
all individually decided that it was unhealthy. So my advice
would be: don't worry about it. It'll pass!
urgh! my husband smokes and this stuff drives me insane!!!!!
here's what i tell my daughter: smoking is a bad choice. and i know that
she is a
smart girl who loves her body and treats it with respect, and that i hope
make a good choice and not smoke because that would hurt her.
''but big kids have cigarettes.'' no, smart big kids do not smoke
cigarettes. smart big
kids choose to treat their bodies with love.
''but daddy smokes cigarettes.'' yes. but you can make a better choice and
body with love.
get the theme? we went through about 6 weeks of questioning and
then it all went away. and daddy got tired or hearing the conversations
almost never sees him smoke any more.
My parents are non-smokers, teetotalers, etc., and I clearly
remember pretending to smoke as a kid with pens, pretzel sticks,
etc. And my friends who were allowed them (I sure wasn't!) used
to dig candy cigarettes. My 3yo does it sometimes, too, and we
don't know anyone who smokes. For some reason (it's illicit,
it's mysterious, stars do it, oral fixation, etc. -- take your
pick depending on the kid's age), it seems to have an appeal.
Perhaps for your child the appeal is even in the fact that you
get freaked out about it. I'll bet if you ignore it he'll
stop. Either way, I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean he'll be a
Don't sweat it
Um. I'm sorry. How exactly is this a problem? Are you worried
he's going to toddle over to a cigar bar and buy some stogies?
He's three. He's pretending. He can't fly, either -- would you
worry if he was pretending to do that? Relax!
p.s. The fact that you and your husband are ''totally freaked out''
by this is probably pretty amusing for your son. It would be to me.
This is a big one with me, as my dad's death was considerably hastened by
I'm sure that your huge reaction to your son's smoking is part of the
now obsessed with it (children do the very things we hate for a
I decided early on make an effort to avoid having cigarettes be a
rebellion thing for
my boy, and what I've done (and what up until now has worked), is to
questions about smoking in terms of how it makes me sad, and how I feel
the person who is smoking, because they could get really sick someday
anyone who's offended by the patronizing tone -- remember, I was talking
to a 2
year old). And then to just let it go. When my son went through a
pretending-to-smoke period, I would just say, in a calm, detached voice,
too bad.'' Nothing else. It seemed like basically ignoring it helped it
Ignore it. The more attention you give this behavior, the more
you will get. This too shall pass.
don't sweat the small stuff
Your toddler is just trying to process something new that he has
seen--your friend smoking--by acting it out. This is normal. It
doesn't mean that he WANTS to smoke. For the most part, I'd
suggest that you don't make a big deal about it, although you
should continue to reinforce your ''smoking is yucky'' message in a
way that is not heavy-handed. Meaning, if your toddler is
imitating smoking and wanting to get your attention, you should
respond by saying in a bored way, ''Smoking is yucky, honey.'' If
your toddler asks you why your friend smokes, just explain that
because your friend is an adult, she can choose to
smoke--although smoking is bad for her health and that you'd be
very sad if she ever got really sick from smoking. If your
toddler is pretend-smoking, say to him playfully, ''Oh, we don't
allow smoking in the house. You'll have to go outside to do
that.'' Then put him outside in the yard and leave him alone. Or
say, ''Oh, too bad. I wanted to give you a kiss, but now that
you're smoking, your mouth smells yucky, so I won't kiss you.''
He'll get the message.
Smoking is yucky
Obviously, i would never allow anyone to smoke in the home with my
baby. But i have a question about some gray area. My father in law
smokes and when he visists he goes outside to smoke and when he
comes in i can smell the smoke smell on him. He usually waits a few
minutes before coming back into the house, and the smell is not super
strong, but i can smell it. It seems to me that smoke smell means smoke
fumes and i feel that this might be damaging to my baby if he is
breathing this air. I dont want to over-react or be a paranoid mom, but i
of course will raise the issue if my son's health is at risk. Does anyone
know about this?
If you can smell the nasties, the nasties are there. That said as a pediatrician when parents ask me about this situation I tell them that a good relationship with the grandparents is probably more important to the child than avoiding trace exposure to second-hand smoke. You can ask grandpa to use a ''smoking jacket''
when he goes outside if he doesn't do so already. Any old sweater or jacket that he wears when smoking and takes off before he comes into the house will do.
I wouldn't worry about it. I don't think you're compromising your son's health. Probably more than anything, your baby will be developing an association between the smell and grandpa.
My 3.5 year old is raised fairly conservatively, with only the
occasional taped PBS program and nothing else for video/TV
stimulation. Lately, he's become fascinated with firemen and
everything to do with fire. In the last day, he's asked me
about 40 questions about cigarettes.
''why is he cigaretting?''
That's the biggie.
Could you guys please tell me what you tell your children about
smoking right at the beginning, when they're young?
We have told him that ''stinky smokers'' as my husband calls them
are doing something that smells not good and is not good for
them. This perplexes him. How could adults do something not
good for them? I have told him that we can all make decisions
in our lives, about everything, and that smokers have made a
decision that is not good for them.
I'd love to have more of a rote answer when the topic comes up,
and I'd LOVE to have a way to divert him away from the topic
(since I think he's just interested because smoke comes out of
a cigarette, just like fire.)
I have told my son pretty consistently that the stuff in
cigarettes (which got called by its own name, nicotine, when he
asked) tricks a person's body into thinking that the cigarettes
are good for the person. By the time most smokers learn
otherwise, their bodies are already convinced (wrongly) that
they need this stuff which is actually really awful for them.
My father was a smoker, which contributed to his death; while I
don't want to demonize smokers, I also want to ensure that my
son doesn't become a smoker. I've told him by now (6 y.o.) that
people often start when they're younger and think ''just one or
two won't hurt me'' or ''it looks cool'' - and that their bodies
are tricked before they realize it. It's really hard, but not
impossible, to convince their bodies to do without the
cigarettes once it happens. BTW, my son is determined never to
let HIS body be ''tricked'' at all, and refuses even to go near a
cigarette butt in the road.
As an off-and-on smoker myself (and a sensitive human being), I
am quite offended by the term ''stinky smokers''. Especially
considering that you are conveying it to your children. I don't
think it's ever a good idea to teach a child to ridicule any
person. I think it's important that you teach your child that
it is the cigarette that you are opposed to, not the person.
Nice person with a bad habit
My 3.5 year old started asking similar questions when a number
of people working on our remodel were smoking. I told him that
most people start smoking when they are young and don't have
enough experience in the world to make a good decision. Young
people are often more concerned about fitting in with friends
(who are the smokers) than with their long term health.
Unfortunately, smoking is habit forming and when these young
people get old enough to realize what a mistake they have made,
they have a very difficult time giving up smoking. That
satisfied him. He still talks about it occasionally, but
usually in the context of ''icky smoke'' and ''I don't like the
smell of that, so I cover my nose.''
I think you have explained it well: Adults don't always make
good choices. What a valuable lesson to learn! The part that
you may still want to explain is the concept of addiction -
once started, hard to stop. I told my daughter that the brain
creates a ''feel good'' feeling and when the smoking stops, the
feeling goes down and only comes back up with the next
cigarette. Then remind your child how hard it is to only eat
one potato chip or one m&m. (They understand immediately). When
we visit Germany my daughter gets quite annoyed with smokers
and will say in their presence in a restaurant or while waiting
at a bus stop ''I wish (s)he stopped smoking, it smells really
bad'' - sometimes with success. I will let her express herself
freely in this respect, because not too many adults have heard
that from a six year old girl and it has worked wonders on
THis sounds pretty common for his age. My son goes thru phases
of asking tons of questions over and over about one specific
topic, then after we've answered them consistently, he moves on.
How about something like: Cigareyyes contain chemical that cause
cancer and make you sick. They also make it hard for a person to
stop smoking once they start.
If he seems confused by why adults do this, there's no harm in
saying that you don't know why or that adults sometimes make bad
Here's what I said (and keep saying, even now that they're
older), in addition to the things you're already saying:
One of the really bad things about smoking, is that once a
person starts, it can be VERY hard to stop. Adults who smoke
now started smoking before they knew just how bad it is for you
(not true for everyone, of course, but I'll stretch the truth
for this), and now their body is so hooked on it, they haven't
been able to quit yet. They know they might get sick from it
later, but smoking is so addictive, it's VERY HARD to quit.
I'm glad we all know that now, so you won't ever smoke!
You could say "Sometimes grownups do things they know they shouldn't
do. Just like kids. But we have to keep trying."
this page was last updated: Feb 8, 2013
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