April 5, 2010 -- It was five years ago tonight that Peter Jennings announced to us all that he had been diagnosed with cancer.
"I have learned in the last couple of days that I have lung cancer," he said. "Yes, I was a smoker until about twenty years ago. And I was weak and I smoked after 9/11."
While lung cancer remains the most common fatal cancer -- 160,000 Americans die from it every year -- the number of Americans dying from lung cancer is decreasing more rapidly than for any other cancer. It's due almost entirely to reductions in smoking.
While 20 percent of Americans still smoke,the smoking rate among the young is at its lowest ever.
According to the CDC, 23 percent of high school kids smoked in 2005. By 2008, it was down to 20 percent.
And there is more help for those who want to quit.
In 2005, there was no national coordinated effort to help people quit. Some states provided assistance, others did not.
Today, there is a coordinated, nationwide effort involving all fifty states.
There is a national toll-free number, 1-800-QUITNOW, that Americans can call.
In 2005, the quit line had 200,000 callers. In 2009, that number had more than doubled, to 500,000.
New State Laws
More and more states each year are passing laws that entirely ban smoking in public places. These laws protect people from the effects of second-hand smoke and can support smokers' efforts to quit.
In 2005, 10 states had smoking bans. Today, 27 do.
Federal laws are changing too.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was signed by President Obama in June 2009. For the first time in history, this Act grants the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products.
Some new rules, scheduled to begin in June of this year, aim to restrict some types of sales and promotion of tobacco products to make them less accessible to kids.
Smoking in America
For example, the sale of tobacco products to people under 18 will be prohibited and free cigarette samples will no longer be distributed.
There are also treatment options that weren't available five years ago. One of them is Chantix, a prescription medication brought to market in May 2006. Other treatments, such as nicotine lozanges and patches, have also shown effectiveness.
It's progress fighting a foe.
And news that would surely please our colleague, Peter Jennings, whom we remember tonight.
For more help and information on quitting for good check out http://www.smokefree.gov/