The Debi Austin Story

July 2, 2021

Debi Austin started smoking at the age of 13. She continued to smoke through a stoma in her throat even after being diagnosed with cancer and having her larynx removed at the age of 42. But, Debi fought back. She starred in an iconic television ad for the California Tobacco Control Program, quit smoking and made anti-tobacco education her mission in life until she sadly passed away in early 2013 after battling numerous tobacco-related cancers for many years. View the touching documentary to learn more about Debi and how she stood up against Big Tobacco.

Debi Austin: Tobacco’s Death Toll

Debi Austin discusses how people hear about death every day and because of this, tobacco-related deaths are overlooked. She compares how many people die from AIDS, murder, drugs and tobacco while pouring BB’s into a metal can. The number of BB’s dropped for tobacco deaths dwarfs the other causes of death.

Debi Austin: “Stages”

This ad shows a young Debi Austin as we hear the real Debi speaking from the present. She explains how the tobacco industry targeted her early on, when she started smoking cigarettes at just 13 years old. The ad transitions to modern Debi after a stoma appears in the mirrored reflection of young Debi — a health effect from cancer surgery caused by smoking — and she warns viewers not to be the tobacco industry’s next victim.


Debi Austin: “Voicebox – In Memory”

In this ad from 1996, Debi Austin discusses her struggle to quit smoking even after having her larynx removed due to a tobacco-related cancer diagnosis. The making of the ad prompted her to quit smoking and tell her story to thousands of children and adults around California. Sadly, Debi passed away in February 2013 after courageously battling multiple tobacco-related cancers for over 20 years.

Debi Austin: “Candle”

Debi Austin sits behind a lit candle describing how smoking took her dreams and health from her. She attempts to warn people on the dangers of smoking before it’s too late. At the end of the spot the candle is symbolically blown out as Debi coughs.