The Nashville Scene reports that cigarette giant Phillip Morris, now known as Altria, will be the founding sponsor of the 7th Annual Academies of Nashville gala, an event put on by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce honoring teachers and principals, and recognizing partnerships between business and schools.
Lieff Cabraser attorney Kenneth S. Byrd, who has litigated against tobacco companies for the past four years, says it’s no coincidence that Altria is choosing to sponsor events where students can be exposed to its brand.
“I guarantee that every public school student getting an award at the Academies of Nashville event has a close or distant family member that has been killed by cigarettes,” Byrd says. “Rather than give money to sponsor an event to make themselves look better, maybe they should just promise to quit targeting children to get them addicted to their deadly product for money.”
Altria’s marketing and advertising practices have for years been called into question. When the company was still known as Philip Morris, an internal memo was leaked where an executive said: “Today’s teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while still in their teens… The smoking patterns of teenagers are particularly important to Philip Morris.”
According to the Nashville Scene a report by the Surgeon General “shows that more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes, and that 90 percent of smokers light up for the first time before they turn 18.”
About Kenneth S. Byrd
A partner in Lieff Cabraser’s Nashville office Kenneth S. Byrd represents consumers in consumer protection cases and individuals and the families of loved ones who died in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits filed in courts in Tennessee and across the Southeast and Midwest. Kenneth is also a member of Lieff Cabraser’s False Claim Act practice group, helping whistleblowers to stop fraud and the misuse of funds in government contracts and programs.
Over the last several years, Kenneth has represented the families of deceased smokers in trials in Florida federal court against the tobacco companies for their 50-year conspiracy of misrepresenting the dangers of smoking cigarettes and for intentionally engineering the design of cigarettes to make them more addictive. In several trials, juries have returned multi-million dollar verdicts. Kenneth was lead trial counsel in such a jury trial that led to a notable 2013 victory, and has been second chair in several other trials.