As reported by The Hartford Courant, July 27, 2005.

State Joins Suit Vs. Reynolds

Tobacco Company's Ad Claim Challenged

By Garret Condon

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday that quitting smoking is the only safe alternative to cigarettes and announced that Connecticut would join eight other states and the District of Columbia in a lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. for marketing its Eclipse cigarettes as safer than regular brands.

Blumenthal said the Reynolds claims are false and therefore violate consumer protection laws. He said the statements also violate the Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry, which prohibits companies from misrepresenting the health consequences of tobacco use. The lawsuit was filed in state court in Burlington, Vt.

The primary aim of the action, he said, is to get the tobacco company to stop making "unsubstantiated health claims."

In a 2004 newspaper ad, Eclipse was described as "a cigarette that may present less risk of cancer, chronic bronchitis and possibly emphysema." An asterisk leads readers to the following statement in small type: "Eclipse is not perfect. For instance, we do not claim that Eclipse presents smokers with less risk of cardiovascular disease or complications with pregnancy. As everyone knows, all cigarettes present some health risks, including Eclipse."

Eclipse cigarettes are Reynolds' latest effort to create a potentially safer cigarette, said Charles Blixt, executive vice president and general counsel of the Winston-Salem, N.C., firm. In 1988, Reynolds began test-marketing Premiere cigarettes, in which the tobacco was warmed, but not burned. Smokers didn't like it and it was discontinued. In 1996, it launched Eclipse - a cigarette that burns a small amount of tobacco and heats the rest.

It is one of a number of so-called "reduced risk" tobacco products on the market, from Ariva tobacco lozenges to Accord and Advance cigarettes.

Reynolds has posted a summary of studies on its website (www.rjrt.com), which, Blixt said, support the claims it makes for Eclipse. Blumenthal said that, during an 18-month investigation, he and others failed to get any convincing evidence from Reynolds backing up its statements about Eclipse.

Stephen Hecht, professor of cancer prevention at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center in Minneapolis, said studies have shown that certain carcinogenic chemicals are reduced in Eclipse cigarettes, but that none of the so-called reduced-risk products have been shown to be safer. In addition, he said it's not known what the effect on smokers might be because there have been few human studies.

Dr. Cheryl Oncken, associate professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center, said that no one really knows whether such products reduce the risk. "Everybody is very skeptical of these products," she said, noting that so-called light cigarettes turned out to be no less harmful than regular cigarettes. "The history is bad to begin with," she said.

She said reduced risk is very difficult to measure, but scientists are trying to get a better handle on it, in part because of the appearance of products such as Eclipse.

Blumenthal on Tuesday rejected the idea that there could be any kind of lower-risk tobacco product that would occupy the middle ground between quitting and smoking traditional brands. But Hecht said he believes that a cigarette proven to be lower-risk, if taken up by large number of smokers in place of their regular brands, "would have an effect and that would be a positive thing."

However, Hecht added that he doubts it is possible to create a lower-risk product that would appeal to smokers. Blixt confirmed that Eclipse is far from a leading brand. "We aren't making any money on Eclipse," he said.