(NEW YORK) — Debi Austin, the anti-tobacco advocate who appeared in the iconic “Voicebox” anti-smoking ad, died Friday following a 20-year battle with cancer, according her family. She was 62.
“True to Debi’s spirit, she was a fighter to the end and leaves a big hole in our hearts and lives. Debi will be remembered fondly by those who love her to be caring, courageous, very funny and always there to offer advice or lend a hand. She was passionate and outspoken about what she believed in and deeply touched all who knew her or heard her story,” Austin’s family said in a statement provided to ABC News.
Austin appeared in one of California’s most provocative anti-tobacco ads in 1996. It was titled “Voicebox.”
The ad ran in California, Salt Lake City, Utah, New York City, Idaho, Washington, Massachusetts and Hawaii.
In the ad, Austin talked about having her first cigarette when she was 13. But when she found out how bad it was she said she tried to quit but couldn’t.
“They (tobacco industry) say nicotine isn’t addictive,” Austin said as she picked up the cigarette and inhaled the smoke through an airhole in her neck. “How could they say that?”
Through the years, Austin also appeared in other TobaccoFreeCA ads including “Candle” and “Stages.”
“We are saddened by Debi’s death. She exemplified the real toll tobacco takes on a person’s body,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, in a news release on the department’s website.
“Debi was a pioneer in the fight against tobacco and showed tremendous courage by sharing her story to educate Californians on the dangers of smoking. She was an inspiration for Californians to quit smoking and also influenced countless others not to start. We trust she will continue to touch those that hear her story, particularly teens and young adults. She will be greatly missed,” Chapman said.
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