Debi Austin Dies of Cancer: Anti-Smoking Advocate From Famous Commercial Dead At 62 [VIDEO]
Debbi Austin is an anti-smoking icon. She shocked millions when she appeared in an anti-smoking commercial in the 1990s. In the commercial, she was featured looking directly at the camera. "They say smoking isn't addictive," she says. "How can they say that?" she asks as she takes a small, visibly painful drag of a cigarette from the hole in her throat left from a laryngectomy. The video of Debbie Austin is shocking, but she never held a punch when it came to being hyper-critical of the effects of smoking.
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Debbie Austin said in an intimate interview with CA Public Health that she started smoking when she was 13 years old. Around the time that Debi Austin started smoking, she says that doctors were allowed to smoke in hospital and that the culture was entirely different. She vehemently believed that cigarette smoking is an addiction.
Debbie Austin fought cancer to the larynx for roughly 20 years. She had a laryngectomy as a result of being diagnosed with caner of the larynx. Even after the surgery, Debbie Austin continued to smoke two to three packs per day. She was addicted, she argued. Debbie Austin revealed intimate details about her life in an Q&A wti h LA Times Blogs. Here's exactly what she said about her attitude toward the tobacco industry:
Q: Why did you decide to speak out?
A: I like bullying the bullies.
Q: Are you against big tobacco?
A: I am not anti-tobacco. I am a tobacco educator. I don't tell people what to do. But you have a right to know about the product.
Q: What do you think about the other anti-smoking ads out there -- for instance, the truth campaign?
A: Any message that gets out there that will make any portion of the people stop and think is worth it.
The organizations and people that worked with Debi Austin during her tireless fight against smoking were deeply saddened by the news that she passed away. "We are saddened by Debi's death. She exemplified the real toll tobacco takes on a person's body," said California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman in a statement.
"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," he added.
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