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Reynolds Liable for Damages in Smoker Case

MIAMI ( Courtroom View Network) - A Florida jury found Reynolds American's (RAI - Get Report) R.J. Reynolds unit liable for about $1 million in damages in a smoking case.

The case, :Julie Reese v. R.J. Reynolds, involves Julie Reese, who had her first cigarette in 1939 at age 10, and was a pack-a-day smoker of Camel and Kool cigarettes by the time she was 16. In 1994 she was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer and COPD.

After showing the jury television commercials and print advertisements from the period when Ms. Reese started smoking and switched brands, plaintiff attorney Jeffrey Sloman of the Ferraro firm said, "I agree, if somebody, with all the information out today and all the public service announcements, everything that's out today -- somebody who starts smoking now, really, would have a lot of gall to come in and blame the tobacco companies. But this was a different world then. And when Julie Reese started to smoke, [pro-tobacco messaging] was commonplace."

"What's unbelievable," said Mr. Sloman, "At this time, R.J. Reynolds and the other tobacco companies know in their internal documents that smoking causes cancer. They know. You heard Dr. Proctor pin the date to about 1955. They know, and they're putting commercials out about the fun of smoking, reassuring the public that everything's all right, creating controversy, instilling doubt. That's what makes this case so incredibly outrageous."

Mr. Sloman described how Julie Reese visited a doctor in 1967 who told her that smoking was dangerous. But then, said Mr. Sloman, Ms. Reese sees an ad like the one he then displayed [reproduced below] claiming that a particular brand was reliably lower in tar, according to the US government.

"Now you're an addicted smoker," said Mr. Sloman, "and you see something like that and you're faced with a choice -- Hey, my doctor told me to quit, but wait a minute. This is lower in tar than the best-selling filter king. Maybe I'll just stay smoking. And Julie's testimony was that the longer she smoked, the more addicted she got...So if she had any chance to quit smoking, it would have been earlier on...when if the tobacco companies had been straight and said, you know, we're selling an addictive product, we agree with the medical authorities that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer...but they did just the opposite. So they give an addicted smoker a psychological crutch to continue smoking."
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