US politician;

Born: January 23, 1924; Died: June 3, 2013.

Frank Lautenberg, who has died aged 89, was a long-serving American politician who made his name as a fierce opponent of the tobacco industry. A former smoker, he considered his greatest achievement the law which banned smoking on domestic airline flights, but he was a radical on many other issues, particularly gun control. He was serving as a senator right up until his death and was the oldest member of the Senate.

He was born Frank Raleigh Lautenberg in New Jersey to Jewish immigrant parents and although his story seemed to epitomise the American story of success from a poor beginning, he never forgot his childhood and it helped define much of his philosophy. His father Sam was a poor textile worker who died when Frank was 19, leaving him to support his mother Mollie and his sister until he joined the army.

Mr Lautenberg once recalled his father taking him to a textile mill as a child and warning him what might happen when he grew up. "He said you must never work like this. He said you have to get an education. I was 12 andit didn't mean a lot to me at the time, but it must have sunk in because I did get an education. I didn't want to work and struggle like he did."

After the war and university, Mr Lautenberg launched a computer payroll processing company, which made him a millionaire, before entering the Senate for the first time as a Democrat in 1982.

He quickly established a reputation as a tenacious politician. He was a staunch gun control advocate and frequent critic of the tobacco industry and often attacked tobacco companies' advertising tactics.

He was one of two prime sponsors of the 1989 law that banned smoking on all domestic flights of less than six hours. It was a law that was at least ten years ahead of its time and was championed with all the zeal of a reformed smoker (at one point, Mr Lautenberg had been on two packs a day). At the time, he told the Senate that the law would protect the vulnerable.

"With this legislation," he said, "non-smokers, including children and infants, will be free from secondhand smoke. Working flight attendants will avoid a hazard that has jeopardized their health and their jobs.

The law was one of several anti-smoking laws he championed and one that paved the way for more restrictions on where people could light up. He also fought for greater government spending on transport and the environment.

He initially retired in 2000 after 18 years in the Senate, saying he did not have the drive to raise money for a fourth campaign. But New Jersey Democrats recruited Mr Lautenberg out of retirement in September 2002 as an 11th-hour replacement for Robert Torricelli, Mr Lautenberg's longtime rival, who had abandoned his re-election bid just five weeks before Election Day.

Republicans went to court to prevent what they called the Democratic Party's ballot "switcheroo". When that failed, they attacked Mr Lautenberg as a political relic ill-suited for dangerous times. But Mr Lautenberg surged to an easy win and returned to the Senate in 2003 at age 78, resuming his role as a leading liberal, and he made it clear that his return to office was no mere cameo.

He announced in February that he would not seek a sixth term. The Democrat had health problems in recent years and had missed several Senate votes in the first months of the year.

He did manage to return to the Senate in April despite being in poor health for several votes on gun legislation favoured by President Barack Obama, most Democrats and a handful of Republicans. He voted in favour of enhanced background checks for gun purchases and to reinstate a ban on assault-style weapons. Both measures failed. Gun control was an issue that was important to Mr Lautenberg for his whole career.

At age 84, he beat back a Democratic primary challenge in 2008 and went on to another easy win in the November general election.

"People don't give a darn about my age," he said. "They know I'm vigorous. They know I've got plenty of energy."

He was married for 31 years to Lois – that ended in divorce in the 1980s. He is survived by his second wife Bonnie and his four children.