'Safer' Cigarette May Have Toxins
By Greg Toppo
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2000; 4:54 p.m. EDT WASHINGTON Anti-smoking groups said Wednesday they want R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to stop test-marketing its experimental cigarette after an independent study found that Eclipse, touted as safer than ordinary cigarettes, poses many of the same health risks.
The company refused, said its testing supports the claims, and questioned the conclusions of the study commissioned by the state of Massachusetts, contending they were drawn from limited data.
RJR says Eclipse, which heats rather than burns tobacco, delivers 80 percent fewer carcinogens than typical "ultralight" cigarettes and "may present less risk of cancer associated with smoking."
Several anti-smoking groups said the claim was misleading because some of the cigarettes used for comparison are not commercially available.
"There is no such thing as a safer cigarette," said M. Cass Wheeler, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association. Wheeler said RJR's promotion "is cynically calculated to deceive the public about the true nature of Eclipse and the dangers it continues to pose to smokers."
The Massachusetts tests found that, compared with RJR's low-tar Now King Size Hard Pack ultralights, Eclipse has 734 percent more acetaldehyde and 475 percent more acrolein, two cancer-causing agents.
Two of the most potent carcinogens, Benzo(a)pyrine, or BaP, and NNK, were found at roughly the same levels as in Brown & Williamson's Carlton King Size Soft Pack and Eclipse, but were far lower in Now King Size.
Gary T. Burger, RJR's executive vice president of research and development, said the "comparisons do not, in any way, change the fact that an extensive battery of scientific tests indicates that Eclipse cigarettes may present smokers with less risk of certain smoking-related diseases than other cigarettes."
RJR began test-marketing Eclipse on April 19, only in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and that will continue, spokesman Seth Moskowitz said.
Dr. Gregory Connolly of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Project said he would urge attorneys general to investigate whether RJR is violating the 1998 agreement that prohibits cigarette makers from misrepresenting the health risks of their product. The agreement settled a multistate lawsuit against the tobacco industry.
Because Eclipse heats instead of burns its tobacco, RJR claims the cigarette releases nicotine, glycerin, carbon monoxide and other toxins at lower levels than typical cigarettes.
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the Massachusetts study points to the need for Congress to give the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco. The Supreme Court ruled in March that the FDA lacks authority to regulate tobacco as an addictive drug.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cardiovascular disease and cancer account for 79 percent of the more than 400,000 smoking-related deaths in the United States each year.
On the Net:
R.J. Reynolds Co. Eclipse site: http://www.eclipse.rjrt.com
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids: http://tobaccofreekids.org
American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org
American Society of Addiction Medicine: http://www.asam.org
Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health: http://www.magnet.state.ma.us/dph/dphhome.htm
© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press