JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 53-year-old woman featured in a graphic government ad campaign to get people to stop smoking died at a hospital Monday.
People are now calling Terrie Hall public health hero.
Hall had her first cigarette at age 13. She became a smoker at 17, even though it was against the rules on the cheerleading team.
"I should never have smoked that first cigarette," Hall said in the commercial.
Hall's voice box was removed years before she took the leading role in the campaign that showed how smoking-related cancer ravages the body.
Officials believe the "Tips from Former Smokers" campaign led as many as 100,000 Americans smokers to quit.
Hall's first ad showed her putting on a wig, putting in false teeth and covering a hole in her throat with a scarf. It was the most popular, receiving more than 2.8 million views on YouTube.
Hall understood how hard it is to quit smoking, sharing details about her own journey through addiction.
"The day of my surgery, I can remember smoking up to the front door of the hospital. That's how addicted I was," she said in one video.
Dr. Abubakr Bajwa, of UF Health Jacksonville, spoke about beating the addiction.
"On an average, it takes about five or six attempts per individual to quit smoking for good," Bajwa said.
So it's not surprising to fail on a first attempt. Doctors say it's important to figure out what causes someone to go back to cigarettes.
"If you smoke with somebody, if there's somebody in the house who also smokes, you have to encourage them to quit smoking, too," Bajwa said.
For Hall, helping other people quit the habit gave her something to live for.
"I don't want anyone else to go through what I've been going through because of my addiction of tobacco and cigarettes, and that's what keeps me going," she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Hall's oral and throat cancer was caused by the cigarette smoking she began in high school. This summer, the cancer spread to her brain.
To learn more about how to quit smoking, click on the following links:
To view Hall's campaign and others, click here.