Co. Testing Reduced-Risk Cigarettes
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A small tobacco company is test-marketing in Virginia and Kentucky a new type of cigarette that it says has lower levels of one type of cancer-causing substance than regular brands.
Star Scientific Inc. said Monday it plans to expand the tests of its Advance brand to other states in a couple of months.
Industry experts are dubious that reduced-risk cigarettes will sell among smokers, and they are particularly skeptical about Advance because of the company's reluctance to market them as less dangerous.
In fact, Advance cigarettes come a warning that begins, ``There is NO such thing as a safe cigarette,'' and ends with: ``It is much safer for you to QUIT than to switch or smoke.''
``We're trying to be very, very careful and as responsible as possible,'' said Paul L. Perito, chairman of the company, based in suburban Chester.
The company says Advance cigarettes produce 70 percent less than leading brands of the class of cancer-causing toxins known as tobacco-specific nitrosamines, or TSNAs. In addition, they come with a charcoal filter to reduce toxic gases such as carbon monoxide.
Perito said it is too soon to claim that Advance cigarettes are less hazardous. ``It will take several years to finalize the research whereby it can probably be evaluated,'' he said.
That cautious approach led to skepticism by one industry expert.
``It's a bit silly to think that smokers are going to switch if you're not going to make a strong claim, if you can't promote it as safer,'' said David Adelman, a tobacco analyst with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.
An expert at the National Cancer Institute, Donald Shopland, said nitrosamines are one of about 40 or 50 cancer-causing agents in cigarettes. There is nothing to show whether reducing one carcinogen alone would make cigarettes less harmful, he said.
``About switching to this product, we would be able to provide no advice whatsoever,'' Shopland said.
Nitrosamines are formed during the tobacco leaf curing process, and Star Scientific said it has a new curing method that reduces nitrosamine production.
Advance cigarettes are not the industry's first attempt at lowering nitrosamines in cigarettes.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is marketing Eclipse, and Philip Morris Co. is test-marketing Accord. Both reduce nitrosamine emissions by using special heating techniques to produce smoke without conventional burning.
Star employs about 160 people and manufactures such discount brands as Sport and Vegas. It is testing Advance at about 30 stores in the Richmond, Va., area, and about 35 in and around Louisville, Ky.