Terrie Hall, 53, a real life anti-smoking ad in the flesh died this week after a 13-year battle with mouth and throat cancer.
Hall, a North Carolina native, started smoking at 13. By age 17, she was smoking about two packs of cigarettes a day. In 2000, Hall found a sore in her mouth; a biopsy revealed that she had mouth cancer. In December of 2000, doctors found tumors in her throat.
In an interview with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hall said she remembers smoking “up to the front door of the hospital” the day she had her surgery.
“That’s how addicted I was,” she said. “And I didn’t know that that I was so addicted until after I got out of the hospital, when I went home. I went straight to my bedroom, picked up a cigarette, put it in my mouth and lit it; and for the first time I really looked at myself in the mirror. I thought ‘Terri, what are you doing? You have a whole in your neck and you’re getting ready to use what did it to you.’”
Hall starred in CDC commercials in 2012. In one of her most startling videos, which has almost 3 million YouTube views, Hall shows people how she gets ready for the day as after a laryngectomy and throat cancer treatment. Hall is seen putting in her dentures, placing a wig on her head, and putting in her hands-free device and then placing a scarf around her neck to cover the device. The ad was a part of the CDC’s first paid national education campaign called “Tips from Former Smokers.” Hall’s voice box was removed soon after she learned that she had lung cancer in 2001; she recorded her commercial with an electrolarynx, used to help those who have lost their voicebox speak clearly.
Although some people may get offended at similar commercials, it is admirable that they’ve invested so much time and have had so many former smokers willing to share their stories. Without their willingness to share their struggles and the lessons they’ve learned dealing with the effects of long-term tobacco use, the campaign wouldn’t have been nearly as effective. Equally as effective are the stories of people who have lost loved ones because of their smoking addiction.
Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s Report on how smoking is linked to lung cancer. Smoking also can increase the chances for heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, infertility as well as several types of cancers. The use of tobacco products can also cause Beurger’s Disease, a rare disease that destroys the skin by inflaming blood vessels. Halting the use of all kinds of tobacco is the only way to prevent Beruger’s, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The CDC’s efforts to continue the conversation about the effects of smoking are important, as smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S., according to the CDC. The CDC reported that smoking costs Americans $96 billion in “direct health care” and $97 billion in “lost productivity” every year. The Lancet, a medical journal, estimated that 1.6 million smokers have made attempts to quit smoking since the start of the CDC’s ad campaign. About 100,000 people will stop smoking permanently, they said.