Eric Lawson, 72, was the rugged outdoorsman who portrayed the Marlboro Man. He was reported to have smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and was eventually diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. On Jan. 10 he died at his home in California. He had played the role of a rugged cowboy, but he wasn’t rugged enough to keep tobacco addiction from killing him. We offer sympathy to his family.
With all of the publicity about the ill effects of tobacco use, we expect that even the macho Marlboro Man knew his risks and that tobacco smoking was a major cause of disease and premature death. Even so, he earned part of his living promoting cigarette smoking and was among the millions of tobacco users.
The Marlboro Man paid the price as many others have who developed health problems from smoking. This addiction has caused heart diseases, lung cancer, pulmonary disease, cancer of the lips, mouth, trachea, larynx, reduced fertility, impotence, and a host of other diseases which eventually caused death.
The cowboy probably would have used his time more wisely encouraging people not to smoke. In his later years, he did just this very thing.
I count myself among people who once smoked and who had refused to heed my mother’s warnings not to do so. Why is it kids think they know it all and harm cannot come to them from a bad habit?
It was the adult thing to do, and I smoked for many years before an Army doctor giving me an annual physical said he detected pulmonary problems and asked if I smoked. When I told him I did, he responded, “Better quit now.” I told him “Yes, sir,” and quit then — cold turkey. I consider this one of the best decisions I ever made.
There remains over a billion tobacco users in the world, thankfully I am no longer among them. Still, I have compassion for those who did not listen to their mamas and are still spending some of their income on tobacco. The money used to support a tobacco addiction is diverted from available funds that could be used for nutrition, education and health care.
I suspect that at some point the Marlboro Man decided to stop smoking because he did switch ads promoting smoking to ads for the American Cancer Society pointing out the dangers of smoking. His family was proud of his decision, but it came too late.
The Marlboro Man and I, and a lot of other people, are slow learners; but, eventually we figured out that “mother knows best.” If you are still smoking, how much longer will it take for you to heed the warning? Smoking is a very bad, dangerous habit. Mount your steed and ride away from this addiction!
Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears every Friday.