The legacy of the Marlboro Man


In the 1950s, Marlboro Cigarettes launched an advertisement campaign featuring the quintessential American – a rugged workingman – who became known as the “Marlboro Man.” 

But the death of one of the most famous Marlboro spokesmen, Eric Lawson, who died Jan. 10 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is an ironic reminder of the dangers of the product he advertised. 

COPD is most often caused by cigarette smoke. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, most people with this disease smoke, or used to smoke. 

Lawson is the latest of four Marlboro Men to succumb to a smoking-induced disease, as David Millar was taken by emphysema in 1987, and Wayne McLaren and David McLean died of lung cancer in 1992 and 1995, respectively.

The ironic deaths of Marlboro spokesmen testify to the evils of cigarette smoking. 

The bad habit serves no purpose except to destroy the health of those who smoke and detract from the society around them.

According to the American Cancer Society, cigarette smoking is the No. 1 preventable cause of death in the U.S., and half of those continuing to smoke will die from smoking related illness.

Of the 7,000 chemicals and compounds in tobacco smoke, hundreds are toxic and 69 can cause cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states smoking causes one in five deaths, accounting for more than 440,000 deaths a year. Smoking causes more deaths than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries and firearm-related incidents combined.

But more than 60 years after the Marlboro Man was created, the image of the cigarette smoker that companies attempt to shape is nowhere near the image of an actual smoker. 

The ideal American can’t vigorously work with the brittle bones they develop when cigarettes lower their bone density. It’s also difficult to radiate “cool” when smoking decays the teeth and gums, causing tooth loss.

For those hoping to start a family, keep in mind that cigarette smoke can negatively affect the reproductive system. Sperm can be altered, resulting in fertility loss. If a pregnant woman smokes, it can lead to early delivery, low birth weight and miscarriages.

Secondhand smoke has caused more than 46,000 deaths from heart disease and 3,600 from lung cancer. Cigarettes also have negative financial effects on everyone. The American Cancer Society states $193 billion is lost in health costs and productivity due to tobacco. With this in mind, each individual pack, selling at an average price of $6.36, actually costs every person about $35 – even if they don’t smoke.

The consequences of smoking cigarettes outweigh any sense of conformity that may accompany it, and the resulting fate has caught up to those representing what tobacco companies want consumers to view as ideal. The addicted need to fight their urges, and others need to support them in order to prevent future generations from falling victim to the same fate.

Eric Heubusch is a
freshman majoring in mass