Meet the woman whose cancer fight motivated more than 100,000 people to quit

Tuesday 29 September, 2015

An emotional new Quit Victoria campaign starting this week will introduce Victorians to Terrie Hall – a former cheerleader whose story of smoking-related cancer helped motivate 100,000 people to quit smoking.

In a stark television advertisement, Terrie gives her tips for getting ready for the day after treatments for throat cancer at age 40 caused her to lose her teeth and hair, and to have her larynx removed. Terrie died on 16 September, 2013, aged 53, after the cancer spread to her brain.

The advertisement shows Terrie inserting false teeth, putting on a wig, fitting an artificial voice box inside a hole in her neck (tracheotomy) and tying a scarf to hide it. Addressing the camera with her artificial voice, she concludes: “And now you’re ready for your day”.

Terrie bravely went public with her story as part of a campaign called “Tips from Former Smokers” developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States.

The “Tips” campaign began in 2012, and has aired in the US every year since with new stories profiling real people experiencing smoking-related illnesses. Terrie’s story has featured from the start – and has made an incredible impact. The 2012 campaign alone motivated 1.6 million Americans to make a quit attempt; caused an estimated 100,000 smokers to quit permanently; and averted about 17,000 premature deaths1.

Speaking within days of the second anniversary of her death, her daughter Dana Solano said it meant a lot to her to know her mom’s story had touched so many others and continued to do so – including on the other side of the world.

“Although I don’t have her here with me anymore it’s very touching and honourable to know that she’s able to continue to reach people through her message, and I know that’s what she would want,” Mrs Solano said.

“I was with her until the morning that she passed away. I think that her final wish was to make a difference for someone. For someone to put down that cigarette or to never pick that cigarette up if they see what potential consequences [it] could have.

“I don’t know that it ever gets any easier. I’ve lost my mom and my best friend. I try to smile as much as I can because I know she’s not suffering any more. I find comfort in that. But you just miss them.”

On Terrie’s work to share her story, CDC Director Dr Tom Frieden has said: “She was a public health champion. She may well have saved more lives than most doctors do.”

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said she had no doubt Terrie’s story would resonate just as strongly with Victorians, during a five-week campaign from October 4.

“Terrie helps us understand what is it is like to live each day with the effects of a smoking-related disease - which robbed her of her voice, her natural appearance and ultimately, her life.

“Her story drives home the suffering that smoking causes, and reminds us in the most powerful way that smoking is not worth it.

“More importantly, Terrie’s story is a reminder that – behind all the big statistics around smoking – there is a deeply personal tragedy for a family. Terrie’s daughter and grandsons have lost someone who would have been a precious part of their lives for many decades to come. Every single day, 11 Victorian families experience that same tragedy of losing a loved one to smoking.” 

Almost 2250 Victorians died of smoking-related cancers in 2013, and more than 4500 Victorians died of smoking-related conditions including heart attacks and strokes2.

Dr White said research showed that anti-smoking advertisements and the price of cigarettes were the two things that played the greatest role in helping smokers to quit.

“We know anti-smoking campaigns are especially effective when they use confronting messages to convince smokers of the serious effects of smoking on themselves, their families and friends.

“Terrie’s story shows us how important it is for smokers to start quitting right now and to keep making quit attempts until they succeed. Help is available, including personalised support through the Quitline.”

About the campaign:

The ‘Terrie’ campaign will run for five weeks in Victoria from 4 October 2015, with the television advertisement to be supported by outdoor and digital advertising.

Contact:  Kate Hagan, Quit Victoria Media Manager, 0438 058 406

For help to quit smoking, contact Quitline on 13 7848 or visit Quit.org.au


1 Xu X, Alexander R, Simpson S et al. A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of the First Federally Funded Antismoking Campaign. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, December 2014. Victorian Cancer Registry

2 Victorian Cancer Registry

Updated: 29 Sep, 2015