Former Marlboro man Eric Lawson dies from smoking-related lung disease

Actor is the third 'Marlboro man' to die from a smoking-related illness

Eric Lawson, the American actor who appeared as the rugged Marlboro man in cigarette adverts during the 1970s and early 1980s, has died from lung disease, aged 72.

Lawson, who started smoking at the age of 14, died on 10 January at his home in San Luis Obispo of respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), his wife Susan confirmed on Sunday.

Having appeared on TV shows including Baretta and The Streets of San Francisco, Lawson was hired to appear in print Marlboro ads from 1978 to 1981. During his career, he also acted in hit TV shows Charlie's Angels, Dynasty and Baywatch.

Lawson later appeared in an anti-smoking commercial parodying the Marlboro man and discussed the negative effects of smoking on Entertainment Tonight.

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."

He sustained injuries on the set of a Western film that ended his career in 1997, his wife said.

Lawson is survived by his six children, 18 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

The iconic Marlboro man figure was conceived in 1954 to promote filtered cigarettes among men, which were considered feminine and had only been marketed at women previously. 

Two other men who appeared in Marlboro adverts – Wayne McLaren and David McLean, died of lung cancer, and David Millar succumbed to emphysema in 1987. 

COPD is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. The most common cause of COPD is smoking.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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