This Letter Is Neither Extortion or Blackmail

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

This Letter Is Neither Extortion or Blackmail.

This gut-wrenching letter was written by a cigarette consumer to the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company in 1988. The writer was a wheelchair-bound, 63 year old man who became paralyzed on his left side due to a stroke, and then later had his legs amputated, part by part, over a three-year period, as a result of ciculatory problems which his doctors assured him were due to smoking. The man had a wife and eight children.

He wrote RJR to try and get some compensation for his disability.


Mr. R.J. Reynolds

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Dear Mr. Reynolds:

This letter is neither extortion or blackmail.

Almost fifteen years ago, I suffered a stroke. It was October 27, 1974. Since that time, I have been unable to work, earn a living or be a husband to my wife or a father to my eight children. In November of the following year (1975) I was hospitalized for plebltis. All above was attributed to smoking cigarettes. I started smoking in December of 1943 and have continued all my adult life. I smoked Camels from 1943 until 1970, when I started on a menthol cigarette (Salem) which I still smoke. In November and December of 1984 I was again hospitalized to have bypass surgery in my left leg. I was told then by a vascular surgeon, Dr. R. Khrale, that unless I quit smoking, I would lose my leg.

I still am paralyzed in my left hand and arm.

In 1986 at Easter time, I went into St. Louis County Hospital for the amputation of my left leg due to no circulation four inches below the knee.

In April 1987 I was again hospitalized at U.S. ~eterans Hospital at St. Louis, MO, where they amputated all my toes on my right foot and on July 7, 1988, I went back to the V.A. Hospital in St. Louis where they amputated my right leg, six inches below the knee. I was a patient in the V.A. Hospital at Jefferson Barracks, MO, until November 6, 1988. Now I have no feet or lower legs, all caused by smoking cigarettes.

My lungs check out fine.

I checked with a very prominent attorney and was advised that tobacco companies can't be beat in a law suit. I think I can win such a suit.

My attorney advised me to consult another attorney. I only have an eighth-grade education so, I don't know what to do.

I am only 63 years old and l'm confined indoors and to a wheelchair for the rest of my life and only God knows how long that will be. I was an outdoors man all my life, I worked in the construction industry, and hunted and fished all my life. I wanted to sue R.J. Reynolds for $5 million. Felt I was owed $15 million, $1 million for each year so I could make up lost earnings and loss to my wife and family of eight children.

I have no animosity towards your great company, but all the medical experts agree it's due to my smoking. When I was in the army, from 1943 to 1946, I even got free cigarettes in my rations to further support my habit and continue it. I know I can win my case against you. What should I do?


Richard K. Fischer
5316 Kirkland Drive
St. Louis, MO 63121

(314) 389-2554

Company/Source: R.J. Reynolds
Document Date: 01 Dec 1988
Length: 3 pages
Bates No. 507769691/9693