Heather Crowe, the long-time waitress who contracted lung cancer after decades of exposure to second-hand smoke, has died. She was 61.
Crowe, who never smoked, became widely known as the face of the nation's anti-smoking movement after sharing her personal story in television ads for Health Canada.
In the advertisements, she describes how she contracted cancer from second-hand smoke at the restaurant where she worked for some 40 years.
Denis Choiniere, director of regulations and compliance for Health Canada said Crowe helped to put a face on the grim numbers.
""She had a strong and influential impact for our second-hand smoke campaigns," Choiniere said, appearing on CTV Newsnet.
"She was the figure, the face for the statistics that we've been using -- about 1,000 people every year dying from exposure to second-hand smoke in Canada," he said.
Crowe was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in 2002, and she fought the disease with chemotherapy, radiation and steroids before it went into remission.
But she learned last August that she was losing her battle with the disease.
Crowe was the first person to win a claim filed with the Ontario Workers Safety and Insurance Board for full compensation for lung cancer caused by occupational exposure to cigarette smoke.
"If I'd lost my hand at work they'd have paid me,'' she once said of the claim. "So if they're going to take chunks out of my lungs, why wouldn't I be entitled (to benefits)?''
Crowe's death comes about one week before the Smoke Free Ontario Act goes into effect. The provincial legislature paves the way for a blanket ban on smoking in all indoor public and workplaces to start in June 2006.
By June 2008, the legislation demands retailers remove their so-called cigarette 'power walls' and replace them with a new display that puts them out of sight from minors.
Jim Watson, the Liberal MPP for Ottawa-West-Nepean and a frequent customer at the restaurant where Crowe worked, described her as the "matriarch of the anti-smoking movement.''
Crowe told him she wanted to live to see the anti-smoking legislation come into effect, Watson told The Canadian Press on Sunday.
"It's very sad that she's not going to be here to see it, but she should be very happy that because of her influence, Ontarians will be able to breathe easier as a result of the legislation on May 31," said Watson.