Video: Smokers vowing to quit

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/10/2005 8:23:32 PM ET 2005-08-11T00:23:32

The consequences may seem remote, that is, until death arrives in such a real and public way.

ABC News anchor Peter Jennings admitted his problem, saying, “Yes, I was a smoker until about 20 years ago and I was weak and I smoked over 9/11.”

Jennings’ recent passing from lung cancer, just a few months after his diagnosis, is rattling longtime smokers like 31-year-old Nikos Fotinopoulos who first picked up a cigarette 12 years ago, but is now quitting.  

“This is the time to do it now,” says Fotinopoulos, “There’s no tomorrow, there’s no next year. This is the right time to do it.”

Jennings’ death, and the disclosure by non-smoker Dana Reeve that she has lung cancer, are resonating in extraordinary ways. Membership in the American Lung Association’s online plan to stop smoking has more than doubled in just the last three days.

In an online testimonial, a female smoker writes, “I guess my wake up call was Peter Jennings’ death.”

Another who vows to quit says, “My concern is I may be too late and that scares me.”

There’s another result when tragedy befalls well-known people: It's a public service of sorts, aswith the exposure, there is also more generosity and money provided to save lives.

“To get anybody to contribute a gift to any cause,” explains Daniel Borochoff of the American Institute of Philanthropy, “One first has to occupy some real estate in their brain to get them thinking about it. And since people do follow celebrities so closely, they are likely to think a lot more, and want to do something about the problem.”

“It will generate a lot of sympathy, Borochoff adds, “and there will be an outpouring of grief, and people will more likely to want to support the cause.”

Fotinopoulos is among the countless who are now vowing to quit smoking.  “I’m absolutely determined,” syas Fotinopoulos, “I want to do this.”

He’s been encouraged by Jennings, a longtime messenger who even in death is still spreading the word.

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