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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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.)

More from Doug Cope
  • Mike

    Really ??? Are you flippin kidding me? This should never have gone too court….What a waste of court time….

  • jaygee

    I wonder who the lawyer is who convinced this man to bring forth the lawsuit. I also wonder if the son of the woman smokes. His mother smokes a pack & a half for 40 years with all of the warnings that have been around and now he wants the big payday. This reminds me of the kid who kills his parents and then complains at the trial that he’s an orphan.

  • Sean

    I am sorry that this happened to this woman but the tobacco company did not put the cigarette in her mouth, yes they did give them away but where were her parents when this happened? I blame the parents and the fact that this is a HUGE waste of our tax dollars. This man is just greedy and is looking for an easy payday. Shame on you!

  • Cynic

    What is the point.? The Non-Smokers have shot thier full load and they have failed. We still smoke and will continue to smoke,there is no reason why we shouldn’t.It is sad that they live such pointless lives.

    • magottlieb

      Dear Cynic – Smoking rates are 1/3 of what they were when Ms. Evans began to smoke. Rates will continue to drop. 70% of current smokers want to quit. Smoking creates a physiological dependence on the free-basing of nicotine in cigarettes. It is a behavior AND it is a powerful physiological response caused by the way the drug, nicotine, permanently alters brain chemistry. The average smoker makes about a dozen serious quit attempts before being able to permanently stop smoking. Some quit cold turkey just once and some try dozens of times unsuccessfully.

  • Cynic

    Sorry BZ….Smoking is not an ADDICTION….It is a BEHAVIOR.

  • Ellen

    Guess some of you people have no idea what dealing with an addiction is like, or you would be more understudying of this woman who unfortunately died of lung cancer brought on by a nicotine addiction. Easy as pie to just say stop smoking, just like it’s easy as pie to say just stop taking drugs, or drinking alcohol . It’s an addiction, and helped very much so by all these tobacco companies that made millions on selling cigarets to children.

    • Anon

      Ellen, sounds like you are assuming no one here has smoked. I smoked as a teenager for a few years and then decided that I had a brain and could control my own actions. No one says it’s easy, but people quit all the time. She was weak and obviously had no parental supervision, maybe her son can sue her family instead. Should we now sue BJs for handing out free appetizers?? the grease can cause high cholesterol, and I think it causes an addiction. Bottomline…control your own actions, if you’re a puppet, stay home where no one can hurt you.

  • Terri

    there is no such thing as personal responsbility anymore and the courts allow it to continue.

    • magottlieb

      There needs to be both personal responsibility and corporate responsibility. Lorillard targeted poor black children with Newports and hooked them. They lied about what they knew about the dangers of their products to customers and policy makers. They engineered the product to create physiological dependence. Surely they bear some of the responsibility for Ms. Evan’s illness and death.

  • Ellen

    Anon, I was talking about addictions, not commenting on the law suite her family is now putting forth. Yes, I agree with you that one has to control their actions in life or pay a heavy price, and this woman did pay a heavy price for her addiction. I feel that the law suite is ridiculous and without any merit, but my post was all about people who judge to harshly on those who for what ever reason has an addiction, that’s why we have drug rehabs, AAA, and doctors who deal with this human tragedy. If it was all that easy to just quite then we wouldn’t need these facilities, now would we/

  • Cynic

    Ellen…..Sorry,It’s NOT an addiction… If you’re going to be an effective Non-Smoking zealot you really should keep up on the latest buzz owrds and catch phrases….”It’s an ADDICTION” is so 1990’s.

  • emom

    addictions really,, hhhmm then we better make way for all those crazy new law suit addictions, cause thats where this frivioulous world is heading… sue sue sue,,,,,, its like all these other addictions, you first made the choice to use,, it just ended in addiction.. if you didnt do it then you would have no problem,,,
    oh and before its said I HAD SMOKE FOR MANY YEARS,,, HAPPY TO SAY SMOKE FREE MY CHOICE BOTH WAYS FOR OVER 30 YEARS,,,, NOW GO FIGURE.,,,,, hhmmm wonder if its a choice or more a convience…..

  • jaygee

    How can this man or his lawyer prove that she was given free Newports 50 years ago. I don’t like it when smokers (I’m one too) defend their right to smoke wherever & whenever they so choose and will then turn around after 30 or 40 years and cry when the bad news arrives. Give me a break.

  • Cathi

    A better lawsuit to address would be the people who are forced to inhale wood smoke-from their neighbors chimineas and wood stoves-which has 12 times the carcinogens as equal amounts of cigarette smoke and no escaping it.It permeates your home, your furniture, your walls and your lungs even when your windows are closed.Air pollution kills 2.5 million per year and half is from residential burning. If you have asthma or copd you live at the doctor’s or hospital. Other high risk groups are children,teenagers,people with heart disease,high blood pressure, and people over 65. Google whats in wood smoke!

  • Mr. Bradshaw

    I am very sadden to hear about the lady passing at what we can define as a relatively young age. However this lawsuit is a waste of time and money. At the end of the day, there are several factors that should be taken into consideration. Primarily the parents of the victim. The parents of the nine year old girl whom allegedly received free sample is responsible for overseeing their child actions and where about as she was then a minor. Two, at the age 13, she started smoking a pack and a half a day, where did she get the money to purchase these cigarettes or was she still getting free samples then too, again where were the parents. Next, she was never forced to smoke, despite if she was given cigarettes, she was never forced to smoke. She had a choice and she chose to smoke on her own. Finally, having a heart attack at the age of 39 in result of smoking, she still chose to continue to smoke. Having a father that died from smoking, you think would have then realistically opened her eyes ( and mind) but NOPE, she still again, chose to smoke. Its sadden me to see the son of the mother try to make a dollar his mother death. It appears (excuse me for saying), the mother aka the victim was not that intelligent with making coherent decisions in regards to her health, and well the apple did not fall far from the tree as the victim son is now suing the tobacco company on what grounds, EXACTLY. Like mother, like son! WOW! You are your mothers child. With no disrespect by all means, as I’m simply stating facts. However, I do have a question for the son of the victim, did you have an insurance policy on your mother, and if so was it not enough, as its clear you are simply trying to make a fast million or two. In closing, I think this lawsuit is frivolous and pure comedy. Its very sad at what extreme some individuals will go through to make a buck

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