Industry witness: Ads never get anyone to start smoking
MIAMI - A highly paid tobacco industry witness testified that cigarette advertising does not cause people to start smoking.
Timothy Meyer, head of the communications department at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, repeatedly testified "advertising doesn't have that power" to get nonsmokers to begin smoking.
Meyer is the second defense witness called in a class-action suit brought by sick Florida smokers seeking $200 billion or more from the nation's five biggest cigarette makers. The jury hearing requests for damages from three smokers with cancer already has ruled against the industry.
Over industry objections, Circuit Judge Robert Kaye allowed smokers' attorney Stanley Rosenblatt to show jurors an assortment of mostly black and white commercials from the 1950s to challenge Meyer's opinion.
One featured Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble lighting up Winstons while Wilma Flintstone mowed the lawn. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz kept a carton of Philip Morris cigarettes in a wall safe.
Called as an advertising expert, Meyer stressed the role of "real people and real experiences" in getting the three lead plaintiffs to start smoking in their early teens.
"People control advertising. Advertising doesn't control people," he said. "Advertising can't force someone to do something against their will."
Meyer rejected conclusions drawn by the surgeon general and Food and Drug Administration that cigarette advertising caused young people to start smoking, saying no studies have proven a cause and effect relationship.
Celebrity endorsements, which were common in early cigarette advertising, wouldn't get youths to start smoking, he said.
"They're getting their sanctions for whether it is OK to smoke from people around them," Meyer said, notably parents, other relatives and peers.
Meyer has been paid $735,000 in 12 years as a tobacco industry consultant, which works out to an average of more than $60,000 a year for the equivalent of eight weeks of full-time work.
The defendants are: R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris Inc., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Liggett Group Inc., the Council for Tobacco Research and the Tobacco Institute.