Jury Hears Closing Arguments in Sacramento Smoker’s Lawsuit Against Tobacco Companies
A decision in favor of a smoker who alleges in a lawsuit against Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds that the companies "lured" him to smoke through "deceptive advertising" would amount to an "assault on freedom of choice," a Philip Morris attorney told a Sacramento Superior Court jury in closing arguments this week, the Sacramento Bee reports (Coronado, Sacramento Bee, 2/5). The lawsuit, filed by Laurence Lucier, a Sacramento smoker diagnosed with lung cancer, alleges that the companies defrauded the public, targeted teenagers with advertisements and hid information about the addictiveness of cigarettes and their link to cancer (California Healthline, 11/25/02). The lawsuit, which began last November, seeks $3.6 million for medical expenses, loss of income and pain and suffering. Gary Paul, who represents Lucier, also said that companies should pay punitive damages because they acted with "fraud, malice and oppression." Gerald Barron, an attorney for Philip Morris, said that Lucier "had the right to make decisions, including a decision to smoke or not to smoke." Theodore Grossman, an attorney for R.J. Reynolds added that Lucier "knew exactly what the risks were and wasn't misled." Grossman said, "You should not be deciding this case on emotion. This is not an inquisition on whether cigarettes should be sold. It is not a societal case. This is a private lawsuit. It is about money." However, Paul said that the companies must "tell people what they put in their product; tell people why they do it; tell people that it leads to cancer." He added, "Only then can they say it is a free choice" to smoke (Sacramento Bee, 2/5). During the trial, a former Philip Morris executive testified that the tobacco industry conducted secret studies in Europe in the late 1970s and early 1980s that linked cigarette smoking to cancer and later destroyed documents to eliminate the evidence (California Healthline, 11/25/02).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.