Eric Lawson, an actor who symbolized smoking’s rugged masculinity during the late 1970s as the Marlboro Man, has come to represent something else entirely: the long-term dangers of cigarettes.
Lawson died Jan. 10 in his California home of respiratory failure due to the chronic lung disease COPD, the Associated Press reports. He was 72.
Lawson is the third actor who has pitched Marlboro cigarettes as the iconic character to die of a disease that’s been linked to smoking. David Millar died of emphysema in 1987, and David McLean died of lung cancer in 1995.
Lawson’s wife, Susan, said he continued to smoke until his COPD diagnosis, even though the actor appeared in a series of anti-smoking commercials, in which he was a parody of the famous Marlboro man character, in the 1990s.
“He knew the cigarettes had a hold on him. He knew, yet he still couldn’t stop,” Susan Lawson said.