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Debi Austin, Woman Who Inspired Anti-Smoking Campaign In The '90s Is Back

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The woman who inspired thousands to give up cigarettes more than 15 years ago by smoking one through a tracheotomy hole in her throat for an ad campaign is back for another round of anti-smoking advocacy.

Debi Austin, now 60 years old and smoke-free, frightened a generation of adolescents into reconsidering the deadly habit back in 1997. According to The Denver Post, California officials are bringing Austin back to campaign against smoking once again.

Austin told The Post:

"The worse I look, the more impact I have on my audience. If I walked in with a scarf over my neck, it wouldn't send home nearly the impact than if they saw [the hole in my throat]."

Los Angeles Times reports that Austin started smoking at 13 and remained a heavy smoker -- averaging two- to three- packs a day -- even after her laryngectomy in 1992. Months after the ad aired, though, Austin stopped.


Since the state-sponsored advertisement aired, her health has deteriorated. From breast cancer surgery and the removal of intestines to her current battle with stomach cancer and emphysema, Austin has struggled. But she's using that pain to share her story, and has traveled the world to do it.

The new ads could shock the public all over again, according to The Post.

In one new ad, a young girl preens in front of a mirror, pretending to smoke a cigarette. A computer-generated tracheotomy hole appears on her neck and the commercial fades into Austin telling her story, accentuating her labored breathing and speech.

Read more about Austin's message at The Denver Post or visit Protect the Truth to learn facts about smoking for yourself.

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