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02/28/2013 02:19 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2013

Debi Austin Dead: California Woman Who Appeared In 1990s 'Voicebox' Anti-Smoking Ad Dies Of Cancer

Debi Austin, a California woman who appeared in an infamous anti-smoking ad in the 1990s, has died after a long battle with cancer.

According to the Associated Press, Austin died Friday in a Los Angeles-area hospital. She was 62.

“We are saddened by Debi’s death. She exemplified the real toll tobacco takes on a person’s body,” California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ron Chapman said in a news release.

When Austin was 42, the then-heavy smoker underwent surgery to remove her larynx. A few years later, in 1996, she appeared in a haunting public awareness ad about the dangers of smoking.

The ad, entitled "Voicebox," showed Austin smoking a cigarette and speaking raspily about nicotine addiction.

"They say nicotine isn't addictive. How can they say that?" she says in the ad, as smoke wafts out of the dark hole in her throat.

The ad was called the "most-recognized and talked about California tobacco control ad" by the state health department.

Soon after the ad aired, the two- to three-pack-a-day smoker reportedly quit the unhealthy habit, but her years of smoking had a lasting consequence.

According to a statement from her family, cited by the Los Angeles Times, Austin's death came after a "two-decade bout with cancer."

Throughout the years, Austin -- who in 2011 appeared in a number of other anti-smoking ads -- had been an outspoken advocate for smoking cessation.

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," Chapman continued in the release. "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."

Watch Debi Austin's "Voicebox" ad in the video above.

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