Vermont Sues Over Eclipse

AG says Reynolds has no proof of health claims

MONTPELIER, Vt. -- Nine states and the District of Columbia accused cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. on Tuesday of making misleading claims that its Eclipse brand of cigarette may carry less risk of cancer and other health ailments, reported the Associated Press.

The suit filed Tuesday by the state of Vermont targets a product that aims to deliver smokers the taste of tobacco without actually burning it, and asked a state court in Burlington to bar Reynolds from making what it says are misleading advertising claims.

California, [image-nocss] Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New York and Tennessee have filed in support of Vermont's suit.

Reynolds defended its advertising, saying it can substantiate the claims. Unlike traditional cigarettes, consumers do not light tobacco with Eclipse. They light a carbon tip that heats air that, as it is inhaled, passes over tobacco in a cylinder that's identical to a standard cigarette. The flavors of tobacco and nicotine are inhaled and then exhaled by the smoker.

Reynolds said smokers' risk of contracting cancer, chronic bronchitis and possibly emphysema are reduced compared to conventional cigarettes because of how Eclipse cigarettes work.

But Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said in the suit that there is no definitive proof to support that claim or two others made by Reynolds:

Eclipse responds to concerns about certain smoking-related illnesses. Including cancer.

The best choice for smokers who worry about their health is to quit. The next best choice is Eclipse.

There is no second-best choice to quitting and there is no evidence that Eclipse is any less harmful than any other brand of cigarettes available on the market, Sorrell said. By suggesting that Eclipse is a safer cigarette, R.J. Reynolds is misleading smokers, former smokers and nonsmokers about the health consequences of smoking Eclipse.

Charles Blixt, executive vice president and general counsel for Reynolds, said the company has science that backs up every single claim that we've made. It's fully substantiated.

Blixt compares the Eclipse smoking process to the way coffee is made. Water is heated and passed through ground coffee beans, producing a cup of coffee. What you inhale and exhale is primarily water and glycerin with the tobacco and nicotine flavors, Blixt said.

Tests conducted by Reynolds' scientists and independent scientists are being used to tout the potential health benefits of switching to Eclipse cigarettes. The scientific data we have clearly leads us and our panel of independent scientists to conclude this might lead to less cancer, bronchitis, emphysema, Blixt said.

Vermont claims in the suit that the advertising violates both the state's consumer fraud laws and the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with the tobacco industry reached in the late 1990s.

R.J. Reynolds is part of Reynolds American Inc., based in Winston-Salem, N.C.

To view R.J. Reynolds' science supporting Eclipse, click here.