Eric Lawson, 72, was suffering from a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
Lawson's wife, Susan Lawson, said on Sunday that her husband died at his California home. The handsome Lawson portrayed the smoking cowboy in Marlboro print ads from 1978 to 1981. He also had acted in TV shows like "Baretta" and "Charlie's Angels" before injuries sustained on the set of a Western film ended his acting career.
"He knew the cigarettes had a hold on him," his wife said. "He knew, yet he still couldn't stop", she said.
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. He is also survived by six children.