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Marlboro Man dies: Eric Lawson dead at 72, respiratory failure cited as cause

The Marlboro Man, or so actor Eric Lawson was affectionately called back in the 1970s, has died this week at the age of 72. Respiratory failure was cited as the cause of Lawson’s death due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), likely brought on by smoking. Often remembered as the masculine and rugged figure that adorned a number of national cigarette ads back almost 40 years ago, MSN News shares this Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, how this former Marlboro Man’s passing again reinforces the health risks that smoking poses.

Marlboro Man, Eric Lawson, in an advertisement
Photo File, Twitter Screenshot

Erik Lawson’s recent death was confirmed in a public announcement shared by his wife, Susan Lawson, this Sunday afternoon. She said that her late husband, the Marlboro Man, died peacefully this Jan. 10 at his San Luis Obispo home. He was 72 years old. The cause of death was also given as respiratory failure due to a progressive case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

While he remains best-known in American history as the Marlboro Man who looked strong, rugged, and “smoking” in a number of cigarette advertisements, Eric Lawson first gained fame as an actor in small appearances on such shows as “The Streets of San Francisco” and “Baretta.” He was formally signed on as the public figure for Marlboro from 1978 all the way to 1981, and was featured in several major credits, ranging from “Baywatch” to “Charlie’s Angels.”

According to Susan Lawson, her husband received serious injuries while on a movie set in the middle of filming a Western flick, and the complications ended his acting career almost two decades ago in 1997.

“A heavy smoker since age 14, Erik Lawson later appeared in an anti-smoking commercial that parodied the Marlboro Man and an "Entertainment Tonight" segment to discuss the negative effects of smoking. Susan said her husband was very proud of the constructive interview, even though Lawson 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."

Several other late major actors and national models that also served to showcase Marlboro cigarettes have passed away from smoking-related diseases, much like Lawson. The beloved actor is survived by six children, 18 grandchildren, and nearly a dozen great-grandchildren and counting.

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