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Attorneys Argue Over Whether Philip Morris Cigarettes Caused Massachusetts Woman's Cancer, as Trial Begins

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Sep 5, 2019, 5:44:20 PM

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Woburn, MA— Philip Morris’s design of its Marlboro cigarettes ultimately caused a Massachusetts woman’s lung cancer, an attorney for the woman told jurors Thursday, as trial opened against the tobacco giant. Greene v. Philip Morris, 1581CV01808.

“Make no mistake about it: Philip Morris controls how much nicotine is in their cigarettes when they are sold to consumers. Marlboro cigarettes are highly engineered,” The Public Health Advocacy Institute’s Michael Weisman told jurors. “And they were designed to deliver an addictive level of nicotine to smokers, making Marlboro cigarettes an unreasonably dangerous and defective product, since there are safer alternative designs.”

Weisman represents Patricia Greene, 61, who started smoking Marlboros in middle school and continued for years. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013. Weisman said chemotherapy for the cancer has caused her kidney failure, while the cancer ultimately spread to her brain. 

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Weisman said the Marlboro brand’s inherently dangerous, addictive design was exacerbated by Philip Morris’s marketing strategy, which undercut warnings about the dangers of smoking, while targeting children. 

“We’re talking about kids. The evidence will be that they targeted kids whose brains were not fully developed [and] got them addicted,” Weisman said. 

But Philip Morris counters that there is no strong link between Greene’s smoking history and her lung cancer. During Thursday’s openings, Ray Quinney & Nebeker’s John Wunderli told jurors evidence would show Greene smoked a pack or less a day for about 15 years, and quit smoking about 25 years before her cancer diagnosis. “With that limited amount of smoking, and how young she was when she quit, how long she quit before being diagnosed,” Wunderli said, “it’s simply not likely that it was smoking that caused [her] lung cancer.”

Wunderli added that Philip Morris had offered alternative cigarette designs with ultra low tar and nicotine levels, but those options were rejected by consumers and criticized by the public health community. “Philip Morris offers smokers a wide variety of cigarettes at different tastes and strengths for [smokers] to choose according to their preference,” Wunderli told jurors. “You will learn why none of the alternatives plaintiffs propose are reasonable.”

Trial is expected to last through next week.

Email Arlin Crisco at acrisco@cvn.com. 

Related Information

Patricia and Fred Greene are represented by Michael Weisman, Andrew Rainer, and Meredith Lever, of the Public Health Advocacy Institute.

Philip Morris is represented by Ray Quinney & Nebeker's John Wunderli, Beck Redden's Kat Gallagher, and Mayer Brown's Scott Chesin.

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Topics: tobacco, Massachusetts, Greene v. Philip Morris