Another Marlboro Man Passes Away From Smoking-Related Causes

The wife of an actor who appeared in “Marlboro man” cigarette ads and billboards has confirmed that her husband recently died at the age of 72 from respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), meaning he is at least the third Marlboro man to pass away from a smoking-related cause.

The actor, Eric Lawson, was featured in print ads as a Marlboro man between 1978 and 1981. His wife tells the AP that her late husband had smoked since he was 14. He later turned on his Marlboro man image with anti-smoking ads, but continued to smoke up until his COPD diagnosis.

“He knew the cigarettes had a hold on him,” she recalls. “He knew, yet he still couldn’t stop.”

The AP reports that at least two other former Marlboro men have died of smoking-related causes — David Millar died of emphysema in 1987, and David McLean succumbed to lung cancer in 1995.

The concept of the Marlboro man dates back to 1955, with the company using images of rough-and-tumble working men to sell its cigarettes in print ads, billboards, and TV (at least until TV ads were banned in 1971. In fact, in its round-up of advertising icons, AdAge credits the Marlboro man campaign with helping the company continue to grow even after the death of TV ads for cigarettes.