Antismoking advocate dies: Debi Austin, the antismoking advocate who appeared in the “Voicebox” ad, recently passed away.
The woman who smoked through a hole in her neck in the infamous “Voicebox” anti-smoking ad that appeared in the mid-1990s has died recently. One expert said that the commercial and others like it had a profound impact on preventing people from smoking.
Debi Austin, a California native, died a two-decade battle with cancer, the California Department of Public Health said this week.
“Even on just a simple level, it opens the dialog because you see how this can turn out for someone who chooses to smoke,” Andrew Strasser, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, told NBC about the impact the commercial had. “For youth, it might be a good method of prevention, so you don’t end up this way, and for current smokers, it’s a good reminder that it’s better to quit not and not end up here.”
Austin had her larynx removed due to cancer. In “Voicebox,” she smokes a cigarette through a hole in her throat. “When I found out how bad it was, I tried to quit,” she said, while picking up a cigarette. “But I couldn’t. They say nicotine isn’t addictive. How can they say that?”
Strasser said the graphic nature of “Voicebox” and other commercials like it were effective in spreading a message against smoking.
“Her message resonated for a lot of people, both at risk and current smokers,” Strasser added. “Her message always scored very well,” he said. “Her story really stuck with people. It had good staying power so I think they were very effective.”
California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman said Austin, who later became an advocate against smoking later, “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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