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Former Marlboro Man Eric Lawson dead of lung disease at 74

Eric Lawson in an undated ad.
Eric Lawson in an undated ad.
courtesy Susan Lawson

Actor Eric Lawson, better known to Baby Boomers during the late 1970’s and early ‘80’s as the iconic “Marlboro Man,” has passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of 74.

The character of the ruggedly handsome cowboy riding a horse through open prairies throughout the southwest is credited with helping to make the Marlboro’s filtered cigarettes into the most popular brand in the country. In fact, his introduction into their ads beginning in 1955 saw sales jump from $5 billion to $20 billion by 1957 alone.

Perhaps the most famous of all was Darrell Winfield, a real-life cowboy who portrayed the part for more than 20-years. Others included Wayne McLaren, David McLean and Dick Hammer also died of smoking related diseases.

Although Lawson’s wife, Susan, reported that he was still smoking three packs a day in 2006 (the year he was first diagnosed with COPD, he tried to convince his own kids not to pick up the habit, and eventually became a different kind of role model to a new generation by speaking out against smoking by pointing out what it had done to him.

“He really did make a difference in a lot of people’s lives, “ noted American Cancer Society CEO Jeff Seffrin.

In addition to his role as dual spokesman for and against smoking, Lawson portrayed cowboys in such western shows as “Bonanza: Under Attack,” “Walker Texas Ranger,” “Tall Tale” and “The A-Team.”

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