Eric Lawson was the face of Marlboro adverts from 1978 to 1981. His handsome and staid face looked down at would-be Marlboro smokers from thousands of billboards, as Lawson sat atop his horse and cupped his hands to light up.
The actor passed away at his home in San Luis Obispo, California, on January 10. According to his wife, Susan Lawson, Eric suffered respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Lawson had smoked continually from age 14.
The “Marlboro Man” ads were initially conceived by advertising executive Leo Burnett, and his similar ads ran from 1954 until the 90s. Lawson was one of several "Marlboro Men" portrayed in various outdoor scenes. The ads were meant to popularize filtered cigarettes, which at the time were considered feminine.
Lawson also appeared on the television shows Beretta, Charlie's Angels and Baywatch. Later in his career, Lawson actually filmed an anti-smoking commercial that parodied the Marlboro Man, and did a spot on Entertainment Tonight to discuss the harmful effects of smoking.
“He knew the cigarettes had a hold on him,” Susan Lawson said. “He knew, yet he still couldn't stop.”