One of the actors who portrayed the “Marlboro Man” in the long-running ad campaign for the Marlboro cigarette brand has died, Reuters reports. Eric Lawson was 72.
Lawson died Jan. 10 of respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an illness that has been linked to smoking by the U.S. surgeon general, the story notes.
Featured in small parts in TV shows including “Baretta” and “Charlie’s Angels,” Lawson was probably most recognizable for his role as the cowboy in the cigarette ads during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was one of a series of actors to portray the character.
The image of the Marlboro Man was created in the 1950s as a rugged, masculine icon for the brand, which the article notes was previously considered a women’s cigarette.
Later, however, Lawson spoke out about the dangers of cigarettes and appeared in an anti-tobacco public service announcement for the American Cancer Society. The 30-second ad carried the message, “Secondhand smoke kills,” and featured a horse dying after Lawson, dressed as a cowboy, puffed a cigarette around the ranch.
An obituary notice published in the Los Angeles Times by his family noted that Lawson “was particularly proud of an NBC interview he gave regarding the negative effects of cigarette smoking."