One Year Later, Peter Jennings Still Educates Public

Peter Jennings' announcement a year ago that he had lung cancer helped change people's attitudes about smoking, according to public health advocates.

"I have learned in the last couple of days that I have lung cancer," Jennings announced on the air last April 5. "Yes, I was a smoker until about 20 years ago. And I was weak and I smoked over 9/11."

Thomas J. Glynn of the American Cancer Society called the public declaration a "watershed event in public health."

"Like the true reporter he was, he told the facts as they were," Glynn said. "And that enabled smoking and lung cancer to come out in the open and become a topic for discussion."

In the days after Jennings' announcement, calls to quit lines doubled, and call volume has remained high.

Also last year, fewer cigarettes were sold than in any year since 1951, more cities and towns went smoke-free than ever before, and for the first time, former smokers outnumbered smokers in the United States.

Quitting to Live

In November, ABC News followed four smokers who were in the process of quitting. All are still smoke-free, including father and business owner Jose Castro, nursing student Meg Blakeman and Alyce Payne, who broke down on the phone with her quit counselor.

"But it's like you lost your best friend," Payne said at the time. "It's so sad that you can base your life on nicotine and feel that way."

Today, she said, she feels different. "Now that I look back on that, that was the dumbest statement I could have ever made," she said. "Because how could something that could hurt you be your best friend?"

Tracey Bristow, who said she was quitting because of her daughters, did lapse in January. "I was in the garage, and they opened the garage door and there I stood," she recalled. "I just felt like I was sitting there holding a big bag of jewelry from a heist."

Though in the year since Jennings' announcement great strides have been made in getting people to quit cigarettes, there have also been significant setbacks, especially in the effort to get young people not to smoke. For the first time in nine years, the rate of eighth-graders who smoke did not decline.

Jennings reported extensively on how the tobacco companies market cigarettes. "I will continue to do the broadcast on good days," he said last year. "My voice will not always be like this."

He never did come back -- 124 days later, he died.

But given the impact he's had on a profound public health problem, Jennings was, as one doctor said today, "as meaningful in his passing as he was in his life."

ABC News' Dan Harris reported this story for "World News Tonight."