Roxbury Family Sues Tobacco Company Over Free Samples

BOSTON (CBS/AP) – It’s a very unusual lawsuit, the first of its kind in the nation. A big tobacco company is being sued by the family of a Roxbury woman, who claims she died because of free cigarettes given out in her neighborhood when she was young.

Marie Evans grew up in the Orchard Park housing complex, where she said free sample packs of Newport cigarettes were handed out to residents, even children. Three weeks before her death, in 2002, Evans recorded video testimony that is being used in the trial.

WBZ-TV’s Kate Merrill reports

Evans said she was only nine-years-old when she was given her first free pack of cigarettes. By age 13, she started smoking them and eventually became a pack-and-a-half a day smoker. She died of lung cancer when she was 54.

Now her son is suing the Lorrilard Tobacco company, alleging they purposely handed out free samples in urban neighborhoods to get black children hooked on cigarettes.

  WBZ News Radio’s Doug Cope reports

Lorillard attorneys said during opening arguments Friday that the company never gave children at Orchard Park cigarettes. They argue that Evans did not try to quit smoking, and continued to smoke after her father died of lung cancer, and after her own heart attack at age 39.

Cigarette giveaways were a common promotional tactic across the industry from the 1950s through the 1980s, said Edward Sweda Jr., senior attorney for the Tobacco Product Liability Project at Boston’s Northeastern University School of Law.

“This case really describes the whole history of one child being exposed to a deliberate marketing campaign of putting an addictive and deadly product into the child’s hands, literally, with the foreseeable result that at some point soon thereafter she would start using that product, get addicted to it, and unfortunately, 40 years later, come down with fatal lung cancer,” Sweda said.

The wrongful death lawsuit is being heard in Suffolk Superior Court.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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