Smokeless cigarette goes on sale
But nothing shows it's safer for smokers
June 3, 1996
Web posted at: 7:50 a.m. EDT
From Correspondent Jeff Levine
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A virtually smoke-free cigarette was going on the market in Chattanooga Monday, but experts don't know if the new product is any safer than traditional cigarettes.
R.J. Reynolds says its new product, called Eclipse, was developed in response to growing concerns about second-hand smoke. The company isn't making any health claims comparing Eclipse to traditional cigarettes.
"We're not making any safety claims whatsoever about Eclipse. Eclipse represents an attempt on our part to provide smokers for what they've been asking for," said Kevin Verner of R.J. Reynolds.
The tobacco company is betting that smokers want a cigarette that produces less second-hand smoke, which has been proven to cause cancer and has made smoking unwanted in many places.
Eclipse makes less smoke than ordinary cigarettes because it doesn't actually burn. Instead, a charcoal tip is ignited which heats up the tobacco. That generates 90 percent less smoke as well as lower levels of tar and nicotine, according to the company.
"I think we can all agree that for many non-smokers and for many smokers, second-hand smoke is an annoyance, and to be able to reduce and almost eliminate that annoyance is a very positive step in the right direction," Verner said.
Meanwhile, the safety of the product is being debated by experts.
Jury still out
Sorell Schwartz of Georgetown University Medical Center is a pharmacologist who has done research for the tobacco industry.
"If it is as smoke-free as it's claimed to be . . . then clearly the individual's risk of lung cancer, emphysema, bronchitis would be reduced," Schwartz said. (164K AIFF or WAV sound)
Other researchers say that because Eclipse contains carbon monoxide levels similar to conventional cigarettes, it may be equally as dangerous to the heart.
"There are risks that may be related to increasing carbon monoxide in this cigarette and heart disease," said Dr. Naiyer Rizvi of Georgetown University Medical Center.
A source within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says the agency wants more information about Eclipse.
"I would hope that the Food and Drug Administration wouldn't let the tobacco company claim that this is a safe cigarette, because that would be a misrepresentation to people," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California.
A decade ago, R.J. Reynolds tried to market a similar cigarette but it failed. Now the company hopes regulators and consumers will look positively on efforts to develop a less irritating product.
But critics say there's still plenty of smoke surrounding the smokeless cigarette.
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