Eric Lawson, who portrayed the rugged Marlboro man in cigarette ads during the late 1970s, has died. He was 72. Lawson died earlier this month of respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, his wife Susan says. Lawson was an actor with bit parts on such TV shows as Baretta and The Streets of San Francisco when he was hired to appear in print Marlboro ads.
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 says her husband was proud of the interview, even though he was smoking at the time. "He knew the cigarettes had a hold on him," she says. "He knew, yet he still couldn't stop." Other actors and models who pitched Marlboro cigarettes have died of smoking-related diseases including David Millar, who died of emphysema in 1987, and David McLean, who died of lung cancer in 1995.