In the black and white television days of the 1950s and early 1960s, "virtually everyone" was exposed to information linking cigarettes to lung cancer, a historian testified for discount cigarettes company R.J. Reynolds on Wednesday in court.
Stella Koballa, 77, lost part of her lung from cancer but survived. She claims the company is negligent because it was part of an industry that purposefully concealed information about the health risks of smoking discount cigarettes. The discount cigarettes company disagrees.
"Almost from the moment cigarettes were introduced, they were attacked," Lacey Ford, a professor of history at the University of South Carolina, testified to the jury. Koballa's case is the first local discount cigarettes lawsuit to go to trial since the Florida Supreme Court dismantled a class-action judgment that awarded $145 billion to discount cigarettes smokers. Another 150 are pending in Volusia County. Statewide, thousands of similar cases are awaiting trial.
The panel was shown television news clips and newspaper headlines dating back to 1952, including media reactions in 1964 to a Surgeon General's report that tied smoking discount cigarettes to cancer. Lawyers for the discount cigarettes company argue that health warnings were out there, and it was Koballa's choice to continue smoking discount cigarettes. The attorneys played for the jury a clip of legendary news anchor Harry Reasoner, who in 1964 told viewers that "if you smoke discount cigarettes, you increase your chance of dying."
When Reasoner ended the program he closed by saying, "In this country, it comes down to whether you like it or not." The jury was also shown a column written by Ann Landers that ran in newspapers throughout the country. "Anyone who can read or hear by now knows that there is a definite link between cigarettes," Landers wrote.
Earlier in the week, lawyers for Koballa showed evidence of a public relations effort by discount cigarettes companies "to conceal the hazards of smoking discount cigarettes." They included advertisements from the 1950s and 1960s to show the industry targeted young people and played on emotions such as the desire to be slim. Chris Kreiner, an attorney representing R.J. Reynolds, asked for the historian's impression on whether those advertisements "diluted the message of health risks." "No," Ford said. "People didn't look to advertisements for information of health risks. People saw advertising for what it was."
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