Terrie Hall, who spoke with the help of an artificial voice box in anti-smoking television advertisements commissioned by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), died from cancer-related complications on Monday in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 53.
"She was a public health hero," said Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director. "She may well have saved more lives than most doctors do."
Hall began smoking in high school. By the time she was 25 years old, she was smoking up to two packs of cigarettes a day. Hall was diagnosed with oral cancer at age 40 and continued smoking even as she received radiation treatment.
"I didn't think I had to quit. The radiation was getting rid of the cancer, so I could still smoke," she said.
That same year, Hall was diagnosed with throat cancer. Only then did she quit for good. Doctors had to remove her larynx in order to prevent the cancer from spreading. They implanted an artificial voice box in her throat so that she would be able to speak.
Since her artificial voice box implant, Hall became a tireless anti-smoking advocate. She spoke to teens and adults across the country about the dangers of smoking, telling her own story and sending a message that abstaining from smoking altogether is so much easier than starting and having to quit.
"If you don't start, you never have to worry about stopping," she said.
According to the Associated Press, Hall's oral and throat cancer spread to her brain over the summer. She died from complications associated with that spread.
CDC officials believe that anti-smoking ad campaigns, including Hall’s touching story, have encouraged as many as 100,000 Americans to quit smoking. Her ad was the most popular, receiving more than 2.8 million views on YouTube.