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ABC tobacco war is legacy of Jennings

October 28, 2005

By Paul J. Gough

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) – Three months after the
death of anchor Peter Jennings, ABC is taking up the fight
against smoking and lung cancer in a monthlong series of
reports on ABC’s “World News Tonight” and elsewhere that will
begin on Tuesday.

Jennings’ death at age 67 from lung cancer isn’t the only
reason why his colleagues at “World News Tonight” have launched
“Quit to Live: Fighting Lung Cancer.” In the months since
Jennings’ surprising disclosure that he was battling a
particularly virulent form of lung cancer, the show’s staff and
many at ABC News realized they could do more to help people
quit smoking and battle a disease that kills 160,000 annually.

It’s also continuing the work that Jennings had begun
during his career.

“We have learned first-hand the dangers of smoking and the
tragedy of lung cancer,” said Jon Banner, “World News Tonight”
executive producer. “Peter really was at the forefront of
reporting on the dangers of smoking and the tobacco industry
throughout his career.”

In addition to his “World News Tonight” coverage on tobacco
industry, Jennings did at least two documentaries on the topic:
1996′s “Never Say Die: How the Tobacco Companies Keep on
Winning” and 2004′s “From the Tobacco Files,” from Jennings’ PJ
Productions.

“World News Tonight” will report on smoking cessation
programs, tips on how to quit smoking (and why it might be
harder than commonly believed), public policy issues andoptions
for the treatment and prevention of lung cancer. ABC News has
followed four smokers trying to quit, and their efforts will be
chronicled on “World News Tonight” as well as via video blog on
http://www.ABCNEWS.com. The series kicks off with an opening
piece Tuesday with Dr. Tim Johnson, ABC News’ medical
correspondent who helped Jennings in his final months. “Good
Morning America” and ABC News Radio are also involved.

ABC News is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute and the North
American Quitline Consortium. Television and online links will
send viewers to either the national quitline (1-800-QUITNOW) or
their local lines where there will be trained counselors
helping people quit smoking, said Tamatha Thomas-Haase, a
consultant with the quitline consortium based in Phoenix, Ariz.
There have been more than 140,000 calls to the national
quitline since it started last November and they’re expecting
more to the national and state lines with the ABC initiative.”

“Quitlines are definitely gearing up,” Thomas-Haase said.

Banner said that only a handful of people on the “World
News Tonight” staff smoke, and several of them have quit since
Jennings disclosed his illness. Banner said a lung-cancer
series is something that the staff has been talking about since
April.

“We’ve been wanting to do it for a while, we talked about
it more seriously after Peter passed away,” Banner said.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter




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