Jury awards $71M in free cigarettes for blacks lawsuit

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BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts jury has ruled a tobacco company tried to entice black children to become smokers by handing out free cigarettes and has awarded $71 million in compensatory damages to the estate and son of a woman who died of lung cancer.

The Suffolk Superior Court jury announced its verdict Tuesday.

Willie Evans alleged the Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard Tobacco Co. introduced his mother to smoking as a child in the 1950s by giving her free Newport cigarettes in her Boston housing project. Evans says his mother smoked for more than 40 years before dying of lung cancer at age 54.

Lawyers for Lorillard say like many other cigarette companies it gave away free samples decades ago — but not to children. The company says it will appeal.

A hearing on punitive damages is set for Thursday.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.