ERIC Lawson, who portrayed the rugged Marlboro Man in cigarette ads during the late 1970s, has died in California. He was 72.
Lawson (inset) died at his home in San Luis Obispo of respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, his wife Susan Lawson said yesterday.
Lawson was an actor with bit parts on TV shows including The Streets Of San Francisco when he was hired to appear in print Marlboro ads from 1978 to 1981.
His other credits include Charlie's Angels, Dynasty and Baywatch. His wife said injuries suffered on the set of a Western film ended his career in 1997.
A smoker since the age of 14, Lawson later appeared in an anti-tobacco commercial that parodied the Marlboro Man and an Entertainment Tonight segment to discuss the negative effects of smoking.
Mrs Lawson 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 advertised 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.
Lawson is survived by six children, 18 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.