A lawyer for the widow of a longtime smoker told a Florida jury Monday that R.J. Reynolds was responsible for the former bar owner and entrepreneur’s lung disease, saying his addiction started when smoking was “a way of American life.”
Counsel for Judith Spurlock, the widow of Lloyd Spurlock, told a jury in opening arguments that Lloyd, a longtime smoker of Winstons who died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2013, had RJR to blame for creating a culture in the 1940s and 1950s in which smoking was all around.
Born in 1934, Lloyd Spurlock first tried cigarettes at age 8, in 1942, and became a pack-a-day smoker by 1954, his widow’s lawyer, Richard Diaz, told the eight-member jury in Palm Beach County.
He told the jury of an infamous late-1953 meeting of cigarette executives at New York’s Plaza Hotel to discuss a joint, full-court response to scientific research linking cigarettes and cancer. In early January 1954, the companies published a full-page ad in almost 450 newspapers across the country nicknamed “the Frank Statement” for what it purported to carry to American consumers.
The all-text ad’s supposedly frank statements about the state of research on cigarettes’ health risks were lies, Diaz said, but achieved their intended purpose: to confuse and sow doubt in the face of a quickly solidifying scientific consensus.
All of this successful misdirection created an environment in which Spurlock became a heavy smoker and stayed one, Diaz said.
RJR’s lawyer, Jason Keehfus, said Spurlock wasn’t a patsy; he was strong-willed, even stubborn, and had made up his mind to smoke, even after his mother-in-law developed COPD herself and his wife asked him not to smoke in the house around their baby.
It didn’t matter that Spurlock — who owned a bar, a landscaping business and a janitorial service during his working life — was functionally illiterate after having left school in the third grade, Diaz said: He still would have heard marketing messages that continued decade after decade.