Fifth former 'Marlboro man' dies from smoking-related disease
An American actor has become the fifth former “Marlboro Man” from the long-running series of cigarette advertisements to die from a smoking-related disease.
Eric Lawson, who portrayed the rugged cowboy character in magazines during the late 1970s and early 1980s, died from a lung condition at his home in San Luis Obispo, California. He was 72.
Mr Lawson, who started smoking when he was 14, suffered respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to his wife, Susan.
At least four other stars of the acclaimed series of commercials, which styled filtered cigarettes as masculine accessories from 1954 to 1999, also succumbed to illnesses linked to smoking.
In October 1987, David Millar, one of the first Marlboro Men on television screens in the 1950s, died from emphysema at 81 at a hospital near his home in New Hampshire.
Almost five years later, Wayne McLaren died at 51, after a long struggle with lung cancer. In his final years he used his status as a former Marlboro Man to mount a high-profile lawsuit against Philip Morris, which manufactures Marlboros, and warn the public about smoking’s health risks.
“Tobacco will kill you, and I am living proof of it,” were some of his last words, his mother said shortly after his death in California.
David McLean and Richard Hammer, both 1970s Marlboro Men, died from lung cancer in California in 1995 and 1999 respectively, according to the Internet Movie Database. Mr McLean, who was 73 when he died, reportedly smoked five packets a day at one stage. Mr Hammer died aged 69.
Philip Morris has stressed that the character was played by dozens of actors and real-life cowboys during the 45-year advertising campaign.
Like Mr McLaren, Mr Lawson criticised smoking later in his career. He appeared in a commercial that parodied Marlboro Man, and discussed on American television the negative effects of smoking.
However, his wife conceded that he was addicted even then. “He knew the cigarettes had a hold on him,” she said. “He knew, yet he still couldn’t stop.” Mr Lawson is survived by six children, 18 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.