FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2007 file photo, a Marlboro cigarette burns as it sits on a pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Trenton, N.J. Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. said Friday, Jan. 27, 2012, its fourth-quarter profit fell about 9 percent on lease and restructuring charges. The owner of America's biggest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, also said CEO Michael E. Szymanczyk will retire in May following the company's annual shareholder meeting. Mel Evans/Associated Press
Eric Lawson, who portrayed the rugged Marlboro man in cigarette ads during the late 1970s, has died. He was 72.
Lawson died Jan. 10 at his home in San Luis Obispo of respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, his wife, Susan Lawson said Sunday.
Lawson was an actor with bit parts on such TV shows as Baretta and The Streets of San Francisco when he was hired to appear in print Marlboro ads from 1978 to 1981. His other credits include Charlie's Angels, Dynasty and Baywatch. His wife said injuries sustained on the set of a Western film ended his career in 1997.
A smoker since age 14, 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 proud of the interview, even though he 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."
A few actors and models who pitched Marlboro brand cigarettes have died of smoking-related diseases. They include David Millar, who died of emphysema in 1987, and David McLean, who died of lung cancer in 1995.
Lawson was also survived by six children, 18 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
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