You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Debi Austin, 62; cancer patient made jarring ad

LOS ANGELES — A woman who smoked a cigarette through a hole in her throat to illustrate her struggle with nicotine addiction in a California public service advertisement has died of cancer, health officials said on Wednesday.

Debi Austin died Feb. 22 at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys. She was 62.

Continue reading below

Ms. Austin first appeared on television in 1996, telling viewers she began smoking at age 13 and could never quit. In a quiet, halting rasp, Ms. Austin told the camera, ‘‘They say nicotine isn’t addictive,’’ before inhaling from a lit cigarette held to a hole in her throat.

‘‘How can they say that?’’ Ms. Austin asked viewers, as smoke wafted from the hole.

Called a stoma, the hole in her throat allowed her to breathe after her larynx was removed at age 42.

The TV spot was ‘‘the most-recognized and talked about California tobacco control ad,’’ the health department said.

‘‘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,’’ said Dr. Ron Chapman, who heads the stae health department. ‘‘She was an inspiration for Californians to quit .’’

Want each day's news headlines delivered fresh to your
inbox every morning? Just connect with us
in one of the following ways:
Please enter a valid email will never post anything without asking.
Privacy Policy
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of
Marketing image of