My mother is an addict - not a drug addict but a cigarette addict. The short-term effects are not so obvious, but the long-term ones can be deadly.

Mom recently celebrated her 65th birthday and, though she appears healthy, I have for years lived in fear of the time bomb that's ticking away in her body.Mom started smoking more than 30 years ago. She believed the clever advertising that promoted smoking to women. Think back to when TV advertised cigarettes: the models were slim and active. Advertisers have also linked smoking to emancipation and equality, and many women have bought the message and paid dearly.

According to an article by Dr. Jonathan Fielding of UCLA, since the release of the U.S. surgeon general's original report on smoking and health in 1964, the decline in adult male smokers has been 21.4 percent, compared to only 5.8 percent in women. Today, 25 percent of women smoke, compared to 31 percent of men.

Women who smoke tend to smoke heavily. From 1965 to 1985, the percentage of women who smoked more than 25 cigarettes per day nearly doubled, from 13 percent to 23 percent. Women are also starting to smoke at younger ages. As a result, lung cancer has surpassed breast cancer as the single highest cause of cancer deaths in women.

Smoking has also been linked to increased evidence of heart disease. The New England Journal of Medicine in 1987 reported that the risk of fatal and non-fatal coronary problems in smokers of 25 or more cigarettes a day was more than 500 percent that of nonsmokers. Among heavy smokers, over 80 percent of heart attacks are estimated to be attributable to smoking.

Smoking also affects our reproductive systems. Women smokers generally have menopause one to two years earlier than nonsmokers; some studies indicate it also increases the risk of post-menopausal fractures in thin women. For women of child-bearing years, the effects are equally devastating: Long-term studies of infants and children show that smoking during pregnancy has a negative impact on a child's growth and development.

If you are like my mother, you know this but will keep smoking anyway because you, too, are addicted. We need to demand even more governmental legislation to limit smoking. And organizations such as NOW, women's church groups and the political parties should give more attention to the plight of the quiet addict . . . the smoker. - Elyse Salend

QUESTION: I'm an active 59-year-old woman in good health. I take a brisk walk daily but am still heavy in the thighs and would like to lose 15 pounds and redistribute some weight. I read about a device called an electric muscle stimulator that claims to produce these results. Will it work?

ANSWER: For the results you desire, no. Electric muscle stimulators (EMS) are often used under medical supervision to re-educate muscles after a stroke or sports injury. Recently they have been promoted as "passive exercise devices" that help consumers lose weight, reshape their bodies, get rid of wrinkles and have the option of a non-surgical "face lift."

EMS devices can prevent some deterioration and loss of strength if a muscle is not being used. But they can't prevent a diseased muscle from atrophying nor can they increase muscle strength. When applied to muscles being toned by conventional exercise, electric stimulation won't have any effect.

The best way to deal with your weight problem is to follow a sensible diet and exercise program under a physician's supervision.

QUESTION: Our church group, consisting of 65 people ages 55 to 87, has planned a trip to Israel and Greece in October. I've heard from friends who have traveled to the Holy Land that sometimes visitors contract diarrhea. What can we do to avoid this?

ANSWER: Diarrhea affects one in every three who visit developing countries. Although the odds are better that you won't get it visiting Israel and Greece, there are precautions your group can take.

Don't drink the tap water. Rely on bottled, carbonated or boiled water. Although many fresh salads look appealing, avoid them because the greens will likely have been rinsed in water. All cooked food should be freshly prepared, and you should only eat fruit you peel. Try to avoid foods from sidewalk vendors without refrigeration, and make sure that milk and other dairy products has been pasteurized.

According to Dr. Claire Panosian of UCLA, those with diarrhea generally experience multiple (four to five) loose and watery stools a day. Fever, nausea and vomiting may also be present. Most people completely recover within a few days.

Most doctors recommend the use of Lomotil or Imodium for traveler's diarrhea. These medications slow the normal movement of the gastrointestinal tract. They should not be taken as a preventive measure, but only after the diarrhea begins. Pepto Bismol taken four times a day has been reported to decrease the incidence of traveler's diarrhea by as much as 60 percent, but you should consult your doctor before taking it.

C) 1988 Washington Post Writers Group