MIAMI - Alan Landers, the handsome model who posed for Winston cigarette ads and ended up suing the tobacco industry over his health claims, has died while undergoing treatment for throat cancer. He was 68.
Landers died Friday at his South Florida home, said his niece, Robin Levine Carns. "He lived a very positive life. Very strong, loved life," she said.
Landers, whose legal name was Allan Levine, started smoking as a child and wrote on his Web site that he was required to smoke on the sets for advertisements, posing for billboards and magazine ads as the self-proclaimed "Winston Man."
"He was just such a star for us in our family," said Carns, who was a child during Landers' heyday as a model in the 1960s and 1970s. "He was just such a celebrity." But during his years as a cigarette model, Landers said he didn't know he was glamorizing a fatal habit.
Landers later became an outspoken critic of the tobacco industry. Carns said he traveled the world as an anti-smoking advocate and eventually brought his fight into the court system. Florida attorney Norwood "Woody" Wilner sued four of the nation's top cigarette makers on Landers' behalf in December 1995.
His individual case was scheduled to go to trial in April, said one of Landers' attorneys, Tim Howard.
Landers was looking forward to the trial, Howard said. "He was full of fight in his heart and his spirit," Howard said. "But there's only so much a human body can take." A message left with a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which makes Winston cigarettes, was not immediately returned yesterday.
Landers was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1987, and had two cancerous lobes removed from his right lung. In 1993, doctors found cancer in his left lung. An emphysema diagnosis followed, and in 1996 he began having chest pains at a Senate hearing on smoking. Landers then underwent a double-bypass to repair two blocked arteries.
The status of Landers' case is now a murky issue. Under Florida law, Howard said, only a parent, child or spouse of the deceased can pick up a case after a death. Landers' parents are dead and he has no wife or child. There are thousands of similar cases that need attention, Howard said.
Other survivors include a brother, Jack Levine, and other nieces and nephews.