'Winston Man' dies at 68, battling cancer

10:42, 04 March 2009
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The self-proclaimed "Winston Man"...

Alan Landers, a former cigarette pitchman turned anti-smoking advocate, died at his Lauderhill home Friday, according to Newsday.

He was 68.

The self-proclaimed "Winston Man" had been in a 14-year legal battle with R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies, claiming smoking caused his health problems. His case was scheduled for trial in April.

A survivor of two lung cancers, Mr. Landers was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for recently diagnosed tonsillar cancer. He also suffered from emphysema.

"He fought a good fight," says Tim Howard, his attorney. "Alan was an example of light, energy and courage. It`s a tribute to his spirit that he beat the odds so many times."

Mr. Landers, whose legal name was Allan Levine, was born in Brooklyn and moved with his family to Lakeland as a teenager. He later worked in New York and California as a model and actor. He also taught acting.

"He was a big star to us," says his niece, Robin Levine Carns, of Plantation. "He`d come in from L.A. for a visit and was always a lot of fun."

In the late `60s and early `70s, during the peak of his modeling career, Mr. Landers appeared in Winston ads on billboards and in magazines.

But by the late `80s, he faced a series of illnesses that he attributed to a lifetime of heavy smoking.

In 1995, he signed on to a class-action suit alleging that cigarette companies intentionally hooked people on nicotine and conspired to hide information about smoking`s hazards.

Ultimately, the Florida Supreme Court threw out a record $145 billion class-action jury award in that suit in 2006. But individuals were allowed to sue on their own. As a result, Mr. Landers was one of as many as 9,000 people in Florida with legal suits involving tobacco companies. His attorney says no decision has been made on whether to pursue his case.

As courts wrestled with the legal issues, Mr. Landers pleaded for tobacco reform in Washington and Tallahassee and traveled the globe for the World Health Organization.

"I helped save lives," he told a Sun Sentinel reporter for a story that appeared shortly before his death. "I told the truth: Eventually, smoking will kill you. It`s slow. But it`ll kill you."

He is survived by a brother, Jack Levine, of Destin; Robin Levine Carns and other nieces and nephews. No funeral service has been planned.

 

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