She’s the essence of propriety as a criminal case specialist at Quincy District Court, where few would imagine she once reigned as Miss Boston Tobacco.
“That was me,” Carol Earley quipped, laughing. “Young and stupid.”
Late in her teens, she had been hired by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to oversee distribution of cigarettes kent online, specifically within the city’s collegiate population.
“All the big companies, Lorillard, Philip Morris, had what they referred to as student reps,” she recalled. “Each sample pack contained four cigarettes. I’d deliver them to our student reps at all the colleges, then supervise them as they handed them out in cafeterias.
“I remember taking samples to Dedham Plaza, too, handing out Winstons, Salems and Camels from store to store.
“No one found it inappropriate. I started smoking at 15; it’s what everyone did.”
But today the smell of a cigarette appalls her.
“I haven’t had one in years,” she said. “I’m just pointing out that there was a time when it seemed to be OK.”
Johnny Most, the late, legendary Voice of the Celtics [team stats], whose gravelly tone was no doubt abetted by Old Golds and Lucky Strikes, once described the cultural allure of smoking.
“Edward R. Morrow could make a cigarette look positively elegant,” he remembered. “And Bette Davis: man, when she smoked a cigarette, that was class. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with that cigarette holder? Classy, classy. But when Humphrey Bogart smoked, that was tough, which every kid wanted to be.”
This all came to mind last week when a jury awarded $152 million to the family and estate of a Roxbury woman whom it believed was lured into smoking at the age 13, resulting in her death 40 years later.
Cigarette samples, it concluded, as if unearthing some long-hidden evil, had been maliciously distributed in the black community.
Please. Those samples were distributed everywhere.
It was a marketing campaign, not a racist conspiracy.
“I remember getting a new dress and being sent to a photo studio downtown,” Earley, aka Miss Boston Tobacco, said. “Then they brought me to a big dinner at the Hotel Somerset.
“Not long afterward, I think Lahey Clinic was the first to put up signs, ‘No Giving of Samples Allowed.’ Then bit by bit, we started seeing them everywhere, until finally we all began to realize what everyone knows today.
“So in hindsight, yes, it might have been wrong, but it certainly didn’t seem wrong when we did it.”
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