LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Tobacco educator and motivational speaker Debi Austin has died at the age of 62.
Austin, of Canoga Park, died on Feb. 22 after a 20-year battle with cancer.
Austin became known for her anti-smoking campaign in the mid-1990s. The commercials featured her raspy voice as she discussed her addiction to cigarettes and diagnosis with cancer of the larynx.
“In 1992, at the age of 42, I was diagnosed with squamos cell carcinoma; I had cancer of the larynx. The surgery would remove my vocal cords. I was not prepared for this. I am sure that my doctor explained everything to me; I am also sure that after hearing the word cancer not much else got through,” Austin said on her website.
In her first commercial in 1996, Austin said she began smoking in 1963 at the age of 13. “‘Voicebox’ is the most-recognized and talked about California tobacco control ad,” the Calif. Department of Public Health said on its website.
“When I found out how bad it was, I tried to quit, but I couldn’t,” Austin said.
After the “Voicebox” commercial, she became an anti-tobacco advocate, speaking in schools, universities and prisons. She finally quit smoking in the late 1990s.
“We are saddened by Debi’s death. She exemplified the real toll tobacco takes on a person’s body,” CDPH and State Public Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman said 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.”