Cocaine Linked to Billy Mays' Death; Should "Zombie" Ads Stay on the Air?

Last Updated Aug 10, 2009 10:22 AM EDT

An autopsy found traces of cocaine in infomercial king Billy Mays' system, according to the AP. Cocaine use "contributed to the heart disease that suddenly killed Mays," the AP said. The news is the latest indignity heaped upon Mays. BNET previously noted that Mays' death -- which came after he wrote a Twitter post complaining he bumped his head on an airplane -- was treated in an almost light-hearted fashion by the media. Then, Mays' family almost immediately allowed his zombie to continue showing in infomercials.

Mays' family was dismayed by the release of the information. According to their statement:
"We are extremely disappointed by the press release released by the Hillsborough County medical examiner's office. We believe it contains speculative conclusions that are frankly unnecessary and tend to obscure the conclusion that Billy suffered from chronic, untreated hypertension, ... We were totally unaware of any non prescription drug usage
The New York Post reported that Mays was also using prescription painkillers, and taking the correct doses:
Mays was taking the prescription painkillers Tramadol and hydrocodone for hip pain. But Adams says there was no indication of drug abuse, and pill counts showed Mays had been taking the correct amount of the drugs.
The cocaine revelation will force another difficult decision for the business managers of Mays' estate: Does it damage Mays' ongoing ads? Should they be pulled for a period and if so, when should they re-air? The decision will be complicated by the fact that some viewers will wonder whether Mays' high-energy performances were a result of his natural enthusiasm or his recreational drug use.