Frivolous lawsuit proposal: "Orange juice causes cancer"

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

In this 1997 memo, Seth Moskowitz of R.J. Reynolds' (RJR) Public Relations department recounts a brainstorming session held to address problems facing the industry at the time, in particular a lack of credibility and an onslaught of lawsuits filed against the industry by state Attorneys General seeking to recoup the costs of treating sick smokers.

The memo starts out by discussing the need to "humanize" the tobacco industry by putting kind and helpful face on the company (RJR). Moskowitz complains that the public perceives the industry to be "a group of two-faced, conscience-less killers who trade lives for dollars. Nothing could be further from the truth," he says, "but the public doesn't know this."

His discussion quickly turns to ideas for turning public opinion against the AG's lawsuits. One plan was to instigate a wave of frivolous, ridiculous lawsuits against a number of other industries. For example, Moskowitz proposes a study the results of which would "indicate that drinking citrus juice carries an increased risk of lung cancer." He muses,

What if we worked with the state AGs or legislators in some tobacco states (NC, VA), and with a business or citizens group in Florida to sue the citrus producers in Florida and California for reimbursement of state medical expenses paid to treat illnesses 'caused' by the consumption of citrus products? Under current Florida law, this could be done entirely using a statistical model. All we need to do is plug in a few statistics and suddenly we can calculate the dollar amount Florida has paid out in medical expenses to treat orange juice-related cancers. Could also mount a highly emotional PR campaign against citrus growers for harming children (stunting their growth). We could choose other states and industries and do the same thing (Minnesota and dairy products? California and wine consumption? Beef and any number of states.) A series of Medicaid reimbursement-type suits simultaneously launched against a number of industries in a number of states would get major coverage and drive home how ridiculous the recent AG attacks on the tobacco industry are.

Immediately following this idea to cause havoc in other industries, the memo switches back to seeking ways to "humanize" the industry. One idea was to use an ad campaign to highlight the good works RJR employees do in their private lives, like helping school children and carrying the torch for the Olympics.[1]

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  1. Seth W. Moskowitz, R.J. Reynolds Here's a summary of the ideas we discussed yesterday at the first legal/legislative/science brainstorming session. Memorandum. 4 pp. January 15, 1997. Bates No. 17156201/6204