Oct. 4 2000
Washington, DC — A new study released today shows that R.J. Reynolds' new Eclipse cigarettes expose smokers to greater amounts of several cancer-causing chemicals compared to two "ultralight" cigarette brands already on the market. The study, which was commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, casts doubts on RJR's claims that Eclipse "may present smokers with less risk of cancer" and other tobacco-related diseases.
The study, which was conducted by Labstat International Inc., a certified cigarette testing laboratory, compared the chemical constituents produced by smoking Eclipse to those produced by smoking two ultralight brands, Now and Carlton. The results showed that Eclipse produced as much or more of the most potent carcinogens found in cigarette smoke, including nitrosamines, acetaldehyde, acrolein, and benzo(a)pyrene, as the other two brands.
The study's findings contradict RJR's claims, made when it announced the test-marketing of Eclipse in April, that smoking Eclipse produces 80 percent less carcinogens than a "typical ultralight."
"In light of our research, R.J. Reynolds' claim that Eclipse has 80 percent less carcinogens in the smoke versus the typical ultralight appears to be false and misleading," said Dr. Greg Connolly, Director of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program. "Further, the use of R.J. Reynolds' data to make health claims about reduced risk to cancer also appears to be false and misleading."
The study also found that Eclipse produced significantly greater amounts of carbon monoxide, one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease found in cigarette smoke, as the other two brands. RJR's marketing materials state that Eclipse produces 17 percent more carbon monoxide than the typical ultralight, but the study found the differences to be much greater.
Cardiovascular disease and cancer account for 43 percent and 36 percent respectively of the more than 400,000 smoking-related deaths in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Connolly released letters from Massachusettts Commissioner of Public Health Howard K. Koh to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which regulates advertising, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates health claims, to take action to block RJR's health claims. Twenty-two public health organizations sent similar letters to these agencies in August.
Connolly and other public health leaders also called on the state attorneys general to investigate RJR's health claims about Eclipse as a possible violation of the 1998 legal settlement between the states and the tobacco companies. The settlement states that "no participating manufacturer may make any material misrepresentation of fact regarding the health consequences of using any tobacco product" (Section IIIr).
The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids joined Connolly in releasing the study and said it demonstrated the need for Congress to grant the FDA full authority over tobacco manufacturing, marketing and sales, including health claims.
"Without FDA regulatory authority to verify health claims, RJR and the other cigarette makers are free to make their snake-oil claims about their deadly products," said M. Cass Wheeler, CEO of the American Heart Association. "The tobacco companies have not changed, they continue to deceive the American people about their products, and they should not be allowed to dictate the science that governs the claims they make. RJR should immediately pull Eclipse from the market, and all the tobacco companies should agree not to make health claims about their products until an independent government agency – the FDA – has been granted the authority to verify such claims."
"This study validates what we already knew to be true – RJR's Eclipse cigarette is nothing more than a cancer-causing nicotine delivery device," said Dr. John R. Kelly, Ph.D., national volunteer, Chairman of the Board of the American Cancer Society. "Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in our society, accounting for 30 percent of all cancer deaths. The extremely high level of cancer-causing chemicals found from smoking Eclipse, despite the slick marketing campaign designed to fool people into thinking Eclipse is a safe alternative, leads one to believe RJR is more concerned with their profits than the public's health."
Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, warned that the tobacco companies are taking advantage of the U.S. Supreme Court's March ruling overturning the FDA's tobacco rule to make dangerous and unsubstantiated health claims about new products. In addition to RJR's Eclipse, Star Scientific this week launched a cigarette called Advance with the claim that it has lower levels of nitrosamines, and Philip Morris has been test-marketing a product called Accord.
"In the absence of an independent government agency with the authority to verify these health claims, the tobacco industry's customers and potential customers are essentially human guinea pigs in a deadly science experiment," Myers said. "Past experience with so-called ‘reduced-risk' products show that they turn out to be marketing frauds aimed at getting more people to start and continue a lethal habit that kills 400,000 Americans each year."
Myers cited the example of "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes that the cigarette companies have marketed for decades with the implication that such brands present less of a health risk than other cigarettes. But research has shown that, while these implied health claims have deterred some smokers from quitting, these products have not resulted in better health outcomes because smokers tended to smoke more or inhale more deeply.
"Reynolds has acted as its own regulatory agency for Eclipse. This has resulted in the company making misleading claims about this product," said Dr. John Slade, M.D., Professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and Chairman of the Committee on Nicotine Dependence of the American Society of Nicotine Dependence.
Eclipse differs from traditional cigarettes in that it primarily heats tobacco rather than burning it. RJR in April announced that it would begin marketing Eclipse in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and selling the brand nationwide over the Internet. The company's advertising touted Eclipse as "a cigarette that responds to concerns about certain smoking-related illnesses, including cancer."
RJR's claims were not subject to proper scientific review and were not confirmed by the FDA or any independent scientific or government body.
The study released today also compared data on toxic smoke constituents for Premier (a precursor to Eclipse that was test-marketed in 1988); an earlier version of Eclipse that was test marketed in 1996 in Chattanooga, TN; and the most recent version of Eclipse. The data strongly suggest that the levels of certain carcinogens may have increased from the Premier product to the first Eclipse product and increased again in the current Eclipse product.