A tobacco historian testifying as an expert witness in a widow’s trial against R.J. Reynolds acknowledged that the company poured money into developing a safer cigarette in the 1980s — $1 billion, by the company’s reckoning, he said — but never pulled its traditional cigarettes from shelves.
Louis Kyriakoudes of Middle Tennessee State University took the stand for cross-examination following two days of direct testimony in the trial of Judith Spurlock, the widow of Lloyd Spurlock, a longtime smoker of Winstons who died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2013.
Kyriakoudes was asked about a so-called smokeless cigarette RJR developed and launched in the late 1980s called Premier. Since smoke carries the carcinogens in a cigarette, the idea was to eliminate the smoke by replacing combustion with mere heating. Premier didn’t last, because, rather than a lack of embrace by consumers, the problem was that RJR had failed to properly market the cigarette and lacked the business savvy as a company to release it successfully after spending an alleged $1 billion to develop it.
Born in 1934, Lloyd Spurlock first tried cigarettes at age 8, in 1942, and became a pack-a-day smoker by 1954.
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, but still would have heard marketing messages that continued decade after decade.
RJR lawyer Jason Keehfus said Spurlock was no patsy; that 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.