Eric Lawson, an actor best known for his turn as the "Marlboro Man" in cigarette ads from the late 1970s, died earlier this month of respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, his wife announced over the weekend. He was 72. Here's the Associated Press with more on Lawson—who was technically only one Marlboro man in a string of them—and his conflicted relationship with smoking:
A smoker since age 14, Lawson later appeared in an anti-smoking commercial that parodied the Marlboro man and an Entertainment Tonight segment to discuss the negative effects of smoking. Susan said her husband was proud of the interview, even though he was smoking at the time and continued the habit until he was diagnosed with COPD. “He knew the cigarettes had a hold on him,” she said. “He knew, yet he still couldn’t stop.”
A few actors and models who pitched Marlboro brand cigarettes have died of smoking-related diseases. They include David Millar, who died of emphysema in 1987, and David McLean, who died of lung cancer in 1995.
While Lawson is most remembered as a cigarette pitchman, the Marlboro ads weren't his only claim to fame. He also had small roles on a number of TV shows during his career, including Baretta, The Streets of San Francisco, Dynasty and Baywatch.