Debi Austin dies
In the ad, Austin speaks in a raspy voice, saying: “They (tobacco industry) say nicotine isn’t addictive.” She picks up a cigarette and inhales the smoke via a hole in her neck. “How could they say that?” she asks.
“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,” her family said in a statement sent to ABC.
Austin, a native of California, “was passionate and outspoken about what she believed in and deeply touched all who knew her or heard her story,” the statement reads.
The California Department of Public Health said that Austin’s story illustrated the perils 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,” said California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman in a statement.
After making the ad, Austin became an anti-smoking advocate, the department said. She spoke at schools, universities, prisons, and city council meetings about the dangers of smoking.
As a teenager, Austin began smoking and eventually made her way up to smoking two to three packs per day before she quit, reported the Los Angeles Times. She was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx and had to get a laryngectomy.