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“Smoking Is Cool”

by | Feb 17, 2021 | Firm News |

Lung Cancer Patient Sues Tobacco Company for Fraud

Patricia Rickman began smoking in 1986, at just twelve (12) years old. Now, facing near-death from lung cancer, Rickman has sued R.J. Reynolds for fraud. Rickman hopes to prove that the tobacco industry’s successful efforts to create doubts surrounding the dangers of cigarettes caused her addiction.

On Thursday, the Court heard expert testimony from Stanford history professor, Robert Proctor regarding RJR’s actions in the 1980s and 1990s. Proctor had a clear message – RJR supplemented its denial of smoking’s dangers with one message to teens: “Smoking is cool.”

Citing the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Proctor testified that RJR’s 1988 “Joe Camel” campaign increased smoking in middle school and high school kids. RJR’s 1990 strategy documents revealed an effort to target 18-34 adult smokers, “particularly those with an irreverent, less serious mindset.” In 1997, RJR ultimately pulled that campaign because it targeted the youth.

Proctor testified that RJR never stopped delivering its messaging – postulating doubts as to the legitimacy of the causal link between smoking and cancer. For example, a 1984 ad contained the words, “Can we have an open debate about smoking?” This ad encompasses a page of texts, sowing seeds of doubt as to scientific findings, asking its buyers to “keep an open mind.”

On cross-examination, a lawyer for RJR nudged Proctor into admitting that Americans already knew the harm of cigarettes. Proctor responded that unfortunately, that not enough people knew of such dangers.

Proctor ended his testimony with the following sentiment, “I think that’s a good thing. Exposing that duplicity, that fraud, was important in all kinds of public health victories.”

To follow this case more closely: Rickman v. R.J. Reynolds, case number 19CV28636, in the Circuit Court of Multnomah County, Oregon.