RJR To Test Reduced-Smoke Cigarette
Critics aren't buying the latest pitch from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco that for the first time claims a reduced-smoke cigarette is safer than other cigarettes.
The nation's second-largest cigarette-maker called its Eclipse brand ``a cigarette that responds to concerns about certain smoking-related illnesses.'' The company's plans to promote the cigarette were announced at its annual meeting Wednesday in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Eclipse, which heats instead of burns the tobacco, lowers smokers' risk of cancer, chronic bronchitis and possibly emphysema, according to the company's testing.
The Clinton administration, which wants government regulation of tobacco, was skeptical.
``It is not at all clear that a sufficient science base exists to support a bold claim that this tobacco product may reduce the risk of cancer. Nor is it clear what advice doctors should give their smoking patients who wonder if they should switch to a product like Eclipse,'' Donna Shalala, the secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary, said in a statement released in Washington.
The American Cancer Society said it wanted the government to substantiate claims that Eclipse is a safer cigarette.
``The tobacco industry's long history of deception should give the American public pause,'' said John R. Seffrin, the group's chief executive officer. ``But the bottom line is that the cancer risks associated with tobacco use are still undeniably great.''
Andrew Schindler, the chairman and chief executive of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc., told shareholders Eclipse will be test-marketed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Sales will be by mail and over the Internet to customers verified as 21 or older. The cigarettes later will be sold in retail outlets there.
The ads promoting Eclipse will say: ``The best choice for smokers who worry about their health is to quit. But Eclipse is the next best choice for those who have decided to continue smoking.''
Shalala said much more needs to be known about whether reducing exposure to toxins actually significantly reduces the overall risk of smoking. ``Until then, smokers should be very careful about assuming that products like Eclipse are in any way safer than cigarettes,'' she said.
RJR has test-marketed Eclipse since 1996 in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Atlanta and Lincoln, Neb., claiming the cigarette reduced secondhand smoke. Now, the campaign will discuss the reduced-risk claims, RJR officials said.
RJR's marketing literature said tests showed Eclipse smokers will get 80 percent less of many carcinogens than from other cigarettes and that Eclipse causes less bronchial and lung inflammation. The company said tests were inconclusive regarding Eclipse's potential cardiovascular effect.
Reynolds, which also makes Doral, Winston, Camel and Salem, several years ago test-marketed a no-smoke cigarette named Premier, but consumers didn't like the taste.
It typically takes smokers about a week to become used to Eclipse, said David N. Iauco, Reynolds' senior vice president of marketing. But many smokers who switched ``say they'd never go back to their old brand.''