For years, Shirley Baker implored her husband to quit smoking.
She nagged. She cajoled. When warning labels were put on cigarette packs, she held one up to his face and demanded he read it. In the words of their son, Richard, who also urged his father to give up the deadly habit, “she rode him like an old Harley.”
But despite their efforts, Elmer “Perry” Baker didn’t quit. In 1993, months after being diagnosed with lung cancer, he died. He was 65.
To Shirley Baker and her attorneys, Perry Baker’s inability to quit is a testament to an addiction that was fueled by decades of lies and deception from tobacco companies.
“This is a case about greed, about money, about how the defendant R.J. Reynolds put sales over safety and profit over people,” her attorney Harry Shevin told a Palm Beach County jury Tuesday.
To attorneys representing R.J. Reynolds, which produced the Lucky Strikes, Winstons and Pall Malls that ultimately produced a tumor in Baker’s chest, the longtime ambulance company owner didn’t quit simply because he didn’t want to.
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