Deborah "Debi" Austin, who became famous for taking a drag on a cigarette through her voicebox in a powerful anti-smoking PSA in the 1990's, died last week at the age of 62.
In the unforgettable PSA, Austin says in her raspy voice between belabored breaths: "They say nicotine isn't addictive." She takes a drag from a cigarette through her voicebox and asks: "How can they say that?"
Austin had been a smoker from the age of 13, but she became an anti-tobacco activist after she lost her voice to cancer caused by her two or three pack-a-day habit.
The state of California asked her to participate in a PSA, but she said that she was hesitant initially: "Do I want to stand up in front of the entire state and tell them that I lost my voice because I couldn't control my addiction? I don't think so."
Then one night when she went out to dinner, her young niece drew a black dot on her own throat to match her aunt's. Austin said, "That's when I realized how much I had sacrificed for the tobacco industry."
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