LOS ANGELES — The rugged men portrayed in Marlboro cigarette ads became the identity of a cancer-stricken smoker suing tobacco giant Philip Morris Inc., his attorney told a Superior Court jury in closing arguments Thursday.
Unfolding a lengthytimeline chart peppered with the advertisements, attorney Michael Piuze said that his client, Richard Boeken, 56, even tried to emulate the tough-guy persona by joining the Navy and getting a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
“This was him,” the attorney said as he pointed to the Marlboro ads. “This grabbed him. This was his identity. He bought into it hook, line and sinker.”
The attorney showed the jury a montage of Boeken’s Marlboro role models.
“He saw cowboys, he saw tough guys, he saw people who said independence, cool,” Piuze said.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for allegations that include negligence, conspiracy and deceit, among others.
Philip Morris lawyers, who were scheduled to begin their closing arguments Friday, claim Boeken knew the risks of smoking and stopped smoking in 1999 when he was diagnosed with lung cancer, only to take it up again a year later.
Boeken, of Topanga, testified he believed advertising that said smoking was good. He contends he became addicted to cigarettes when he started smoking at age 13, and the Philip Morris brand Marlboro became his favorite during 40 years of smoking.
Piuze showed the jury videotapes of 1994 congressional tobacco hearings and decades-old Philip Morris memos in arguing that the company knew, but publicly denied, that tobacco was addictive and causes cancer.
Piuze said it was not until last year that Philip Morris publicly agreed, on its Web site, that tobacco was addictive.
He replayed a portion of the 1994 hearing in which then-Philip Morris President William Campbell told senators, “I believe nicotine is not addictive,” as did six other tobacco executives. On the contrary, Piuze said, Philip Morris is “the world’s biggest drug dealer, something that puts the Colombian drug cartels to shame.”
Piuze said tobacco companies alarmed by rising health concerns in 1954 began a 43-year public relations campaign rather than investigating the problems.
Only in the 1990s did they begin studies to find cancer-causing agents in cigarettes, Piuze said, after running “probably the largest human experiment in the history of the world.”
Boeken began smoking “to be cool” adult and sophisticated, the lawyer said.
Piuze conceded Boeken knew smoking was harmful but said he never believed it would cause serious illness or death because of an industry “disinformation” campaign.
Piuze said a defense expert testified that Boeken was addicted to cigarettes. The attorney noted that Boeken tried numerous times to quit smoking, including undergoing hypnosis therapy, but returned each time.