Eclipse Cigarette

By George Grow

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

A major tobacco company has launched a campaign to sell a cigarette it says is safer for smokers than other cigarettes. The R-J Reynolds Tobacco Company says the product, called Eclipse, is less likely to cause cancer and lung diseases.

R-J Reynolds is the second largest producer of cigarettes in the United States. The company says Eclipse will be sold in the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. People also can buy the cigarettes by mail and on the Internet computer system.

For the past four years, R-J Reynolds has sold Eclipse in three other American cities. In earlier advertising campaigns, the company said the cigarette produced less smoke and no ashes.

Several years ago, R-J Reynolds attempted to sell a cigarette that made no smoke. However, people who tested that product did not like the way it tasted.

Eclipse looks like a normal cigarette. However, normal cigarettes burn tobacco. Eclipse heats tobacco covering a thin piece of carbon. The carbon becomes hot when lit, but it does not burn. The result is smoke that is mostly water and a sweetener called glycerin. Smoke from a traditional cigarette is mainly a mixture of the chemical nicotine and tar, the remains of the burned cigarette. Because Eclipse does not burn, it stays the same size while it is being smoked.

R-J Reynolds tested the smoke from Eclipse and the smoke produced by other cigarettes. The company said its tests showed that Eclipse contains eighty percent lower levels of the substances believed to cause cancer. It said Eclipse produced ninety percent fewer cancers in mice. And Eclipse reportedly produced seventy percent less of the chemicals that may damage the genetic material in smokers. However, the advertisements for Eclipse do not claim that it is less likely to cause heart disease or problems for pregnant women.

Public health experts and anti-smoking groups criticized the campaign for Eclipse. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala says there is not enough scientific evidence to support the claim that Eclipse may reduce the risk of cancer.

The American Cancer Society also expressed concern. The group said it wants proof to support the claim that Eclipse is a safer cigarette.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by George Grow. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English