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Public Health Groups Urge HHS Secretary, FDA and FTC to Take Action Against R.J. Reynolds' Eclipse Product

In Wake of New Report About Dangers of Allegedly 'Reduced Risk' Tobacco Products
March 16, 2001

Washington, DC — In the wake of an Institute of Medicine report about the dangers of allegedly 'reduced risk' tobacco products, public health organizations are urging Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action to stop R.J. Reynolds from making unsubstantiated health-related claims about its Eclipse product.

Letters from these organizations reiterate calls first made last August that these agencies take action to stop the further marketing of Eclipse, which RJR claims 'may present smokers with less risk of cancer' and other diseases. The FDA has jurisdiction over health claims, as well as food and drug products in general, and the FTC has jurisdiction over advertising. The letter to Secretary Thompson also urges him to support legislation granting the FDA 'full and broad authority over all tobacco products.'

The February 22, 2001, report by the IOM, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, found that none of the so-called 'reduced risk' products now on the market have been proven to be less hazardous and may in fact increase the incidence of tobacco-related disease by deterring current smokers from quitting or encouraging new smokers to start. The report also recommended that tobacco products be regulated like other consumer products to protect the public health.

Contradicting RJR's claims, a study released last year by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that Eclipse actually exposes smokers to the same or greater levels of major carcinogens when compared to other 'ultralight' cigarettes. Other tobacco companies are also developing and marketing so-called 'reduced risk' products.

The public health letter argues that the proliferation of these products and the tobacco companies' history of deceptive marketing makes it imperative that the FDA and FTC act on Eclipse to make it clear that they have authority over such claims and will use that authority to protect the public health.

'If the FDA (FTC) fails to act to stop R.J. Reynolds from making health-related claims in light of the findings of the IOM, it is tantamount to a license to Reynolds and other tobacco companies to make unsubstantiated and unproven health claims with impunity and without fear of federal oversight,' the letters state.

The three letters are signed by 22 public health organizations, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association. The letter to Secretary Thompson is attached. Copies of the other letters are available upon request.

Letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Letter to the Federal Trade Commission

Letter to the Department of Health and Human Services