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Tobacco Company Guilty of Targeting Black Children

A jury awarded the estate of a woman who died of lung cancer US$71 million in compensatory damages after finding that the Lorillard Tobacco Co., tried to entice black children to become smokers by handing out free cigarettes. The lawsuit thought to be the first of its kind with others likely to follow.

Willie Evans alleged Lorillard introduced his mother, Marie Evans, to smoking as a child in the 1950′s by giving her free Newport cigarettes at the Orchard Park housing project in Boston. Evans claimed that his mother smoked for more than 40 years before dying of lung cancer at age 54.

According to Marie Evans’ lawyers, Evans received her first free cigarette when she was about 9. At first she gave them to her sisters or traded them for candy, but she eventually started smoking at 13

Lorillard admitted that like many other cigarette companies it gave away free samples to adults to try and get them to switch brands but denied that it ever gave cigarettes to children and called the allegation that the company intentionally gave samples to black children “disturbing.”

Not surprisingly, Lorillard plans to appeal the ruling, pointing the finger squarely back at Evans’ mother saying that she made the decision to start smoking and continued to smoke even after she suffered a heart attack in 1985 and ignored doctors who repeatedly urged her to quit.

Evans lawyers hope that the verdict educates people about these practices and inspires others to come forward.

As horrible as these allegations, at this point they are hardly surprising. And hopefully more plaintiffs do come forward because the only way to impact the business practices of companies like these is to make their business practices far too expensive to continue.

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