Actor Eric Lawson has become the third Marlboro Man cowboy to die of a smoking illness, it was revealed today.

Lawson, 72, had played the rugged puffing character in the cigarette adverts for three years in the late 1970s.

Dozens of real life cowboys, rodeo riders and actors have played the Marlboro Man in various guises from massive billboards signs, TV adverts and even on the back playing cards.

Two of them, David Millar died of emphysema in 1987, and David McLean, said to have had to smoke five packs a day to give him that rugged look,passed away from lung cancer in 1995.

Wayne McLaren died from lung cancer aged 51 in 1992 after he had appeared in promotional pictures for Marlboro and had sued manufacturers Philip Morris.

The cowboy look was first brought in 1954 to give the filter cigarettes a more manly look.

Latest victim Lawson suffered chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which has been linked to smoking, as well as other ailments.

Lawson, who smoked from the age of 14, died at his home in California s San Luis Obispo, according to his wife Susan.

As well as the Marlboro adverts, Lawson also appeared in hit US tv shows Baretta, and the Streets of San Francisco. He is also had roles in Charlie s Angels, Dynasty and Baywatch until his acting career ended in 1997 due to a film set injury.

But Lawson later appeared anti smoking commercials, using the Marlboro man look as a parody.

Marlboro man eric lawson dies at 72 from smoking-related illness

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slmendon I am so sorry for your loss. I can empathize. My mother, a long time smoker, also had COPD and was on oxygen 24 hours a day for years. Just going from her living room to her kitchen to get a drink of water was torture for mom. She had to stop, hold onto a wall and try to get her breath. It took her 15 minutes to make her bed because she had to sit down and rest. She suffered every day because of smoking. She finally died intubated after many days in a hospital room.

My brother, who smoked Marlboros, died at age 54 from esophageal cancer. My brother in law, who still smokes Marlboros, has been treated for 3 different kinds of cancer prostate, lung and esophageal. It’s amazing he is still he continues to smoke.

We certainly can’t blame the Marlboro Men. They were just doing their jobs as actors. They did a great job and the ad agency they worked for did a great job.

The last thing my brother told me before he died was this. Never touch a cigarette. If you don’t touch it, it can never get into your mouth. Great advice. I help people stop smoking. I have been for doing so for 34 years. That is the last bit of advice I give them after our sessions together.

All the best to you and your family in these trying times.