Dear Amy: Our handsome and educated 28-year-old son is addicted to chewing tobacco.
What he insisted started out as recreational use (on the weekends, while hunting, etc.) has now advanced to chronic use. He has seen pictures of oral cancer, read articles, been offered help with pills, gum and patches. He has refused any assistance to kick this habit.
I am a health care professional. Both of my parents' deaths were hastened by cigarette addiction, and since then we prohibit smoking in our home. My son's justification of his use is that it is "clean" and doesn't fill the space with any harmful, foul odor or secondhand smoke.
I say tobacco use is tobacco use, and we don't tolerate it in this house.
He lives three hours from us and visits frequently. The past few visits he has left behind (under the bed) empty tobacco tins and half-filled water bottles of tobacco/saliva. I accidentally kicked one over when I didn't see it under the bed.
I'd like to remind him of our wishes and tell him that if he chooses to use tobacco he can stand on the porch like everyone else or use this substance off the property.
My wife doesn't want to enforce this, saying we won't see him anymore because he'll stay at his girlfriend's house; she tolerates his use. Any ideas? — Frustrated father
Dear Father: My idea is to support you in your choice to attach reasonable consequences to your son's tobacco use while he is a guest in your home. He rejects your attempts to help him try to kick this dangerous addiction. (And if leaving half-filled bottles of tobacco spit under the bed qualifies as a "clean" use of tobacco, he seriously needs to take an objective look at his tongue, teeth — and your carpet.)
None of this will matter, however, unless your wife gets on board and you two present a reasonable, calm and united front.
Here is what you should convey to him:
"We love to see you. You are an adult and are in charge of your own life. That means that you have the right to do what you want to do. However, as you know, we don't tolerate tobacco use inside our home. That means that if you care to chaw, you'll have to do it outside."
If he chooses to interrupt a meal or conversation and step outside to chaw, then so be it. If he chooses to stay with his girlfriend because he doesn't like the terms you set, then you'll have to accept it.
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