Today, "World News Tonight" begins an unprecedented monthlong series about the dangers of smoking, smoking cessation, and lung cancer research and prevention. We're calling it Quit to Live. We hope to provide fresh, groundbreaking stories and at the same time give people who want to quit smoking the information and resources they need to do so.
As you can imagine, this is a topic very close to our hearts and one which we all feel passionately about. Our friend and colleague Peter Jennings was diagnosed with lung cancer in April. He put up a hell of a fight but lost the battle on August 7th. Peter was for years at the forefront of reporting on the dangers of smoking and tobacco. In fact, there are few journalists who know this story as well as he did. This series is in many ways a continuation of his reporting.
The facts speak for themselves. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the country. Approximately 440,000 people die each year from smoking-related illness. It is a huge public heath problem -- some call it a crisis -- costing as much as $75 billion annually. A majority of smokers say they want to quit. Our goal for the next month is to help them.
Over the next month, you'll hear up close and personal stories from smokers trying to quit. We have sent four of our producers to document their efforts around the clock -- in Pentagon-speak, they're "embedded." In addition, we'll have a wide range of reports covering everything from the effects of smoking on kids and women to changes in the marketing strategies of big tobacco, and a number of Brian Ross special investigations. We'll also take a Closer Look at lung cancer itself. It is the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths in the country -- but it doesn't receive nearly the attention that other cancers do. We hope to change that.
Our partners in this effort are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute. You'll be hearing a lot about their "quitline" (1-800-QUIT-NOW) and you can visit their Web site for more information, www.smokefree.gov.
We're all very excited about this project -- it's about saving lives.
We hope you'll check in frequently with this site and that you will watch these reports on "World News Tonight."
-- Jon Banner
"World News Tonight"