Dana Reeve, the widow of Christopher Reeve, announced on Tuesday that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Reeve, who is not a smoker, said she is undergoing treatment and is optimistic about her prognosis. Over the years, other well-known smokers have succumbed to lung cancer, including Walt Disney and Sammy Davis Jr.
Though admirers have publicly declared plans to quit, the Cancer Society estimates that only 5 percent to 10 percent of smokers are successful in any given attempt. Finding outside help or using prescription drugs or over-the-counter products like nicotine patches can be beneficial.
"You can double your chances of success if you use anything to help you -- like a drug or a support group," said Cancer Society spokesman David Sampson.
The odds of success may be sobering, but many mourners drew strength from Jennings' struggle, saying they felt the best way to honor his death would be to persevere.
"I kept my date with the patch yesterday, and his memory will help keep me strong," wrote one poster. "I have smoked for approx. 36 years and know if I fail this time I will surely die the same way he did. Thank you for the strength you are giving me Peter."
Jill McGinnis, 35, of Columbia, Miss., had been a smoker for 15 years when she heard about Johnny Carson's death earlier this year. She was moved to stop, and with the help of nicotine gum was able to stay away from cigarettes for several months before lapsing again. She said Jennings' death has pushed her to try again.
"It really brings it home in the sense that you realize that there are real people that are there who are public and recognized, and if it happened to then it can certainly happen to me, too," she says.
"It's a wake-up call, for sure."