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Eric_Lawson_Marlboro_ManBack in the 50s only women and children smoked filtered cigarettes, and Marlboro wanted to change that. An advertising company created the Marlboro Man to improve the product’s image, and for nearly fifty years a succession of steel-eyed square-jawed cowboys let the world know that real men smoked Reds.

A few weeks ago Eric Larson, one of the dozens of guys who portrayed the iconic figure, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease linked to his smoking, and this marks the fourth Marlboro Man to die from smoking related causes.

The media was quick to jump on the story, but they neglected one minor detail. Most of the Marlboro Men didn’t die from smoking, and of these four, one was 51, two were in their 70s and one died at the ripe old age of 81. Their average age of death was almost 70.

Cigarettes aren’t healthy, and if you smoke enough of them long enough, there is a better than average chance they will kill you. But, they’re awesome, too, and much like a hot beer on a cool Christmas morning, few things settle the nerves quite like a refreshing Carolina smoke.

For most of human history life was bleak, brutal and short, and a “life at any cost” mentality made a lot of sense when the average life expectancy hovered somewhere in the 30s.

Now that it’s pushing 80, we’re forced to build a seemingly endless number of nursing homes, hospices and assisted living facilities when what we really need to construct is a change in attitudes.

Live a good and fun life, and don’t try to extract every last second of it. When it stops being fun, leave it on your terms at a time you choose.