Newspaper and magazine ads from Mezzina/Brown, New York, feature a fish swimming in an ash tray, a steaming teapot and a bottle of water being poured, alongside the headline: "Imagine cigarette smoke that smells like this." The ads are running in Chattanooga, Tenn., the test market for the smokeless smoke.
Like Premier, a disastrous cigarette that RJR tested several years ago, Eclipse (marketed as Eclipse by Vantage) heats rather than burns tobacco. The taste comes from glycerine passing through the tobacco, a process RJR said is akin to brewing coffee.
NO ASH, BETTER SMELL
But RJR also claims Eclipse differs markedly from Premier, a metal tube-like product; Eclipse is said to look and smoke more like a regular cigarette, except it doesn't burn down and produces no ash. It also smells better, a major problem for Premier.
Using a safer theme to sell Eclipse would require RJR to do extensive medical studies that would take years and then would subject the company to Food & Drug Administration regulations.
NO EASY TESTS
"There is no test that can evaluate one cigarette's health risks vs. another. It takes 20 or 30 years of epidemiological research," said David N. Iauco, RJR's senior VP-business development and market research.
"We can measure the smoke and say that the compounds are fewer...but what Eclipse offers is a 90% reduction in secondhand smoke, no lingering odor, no stain, no ashes and ultra low tar and nicotine."
RJR is also hoping that by avoiding health claims, it will be able to market the brand without FDA approval. The agency last week declined comment on RJR's plan to proceed with selling Eclipse.
So far, tobacco critics have held off some of their fire.
"It's a big deception, but there is no worry if it's anything like Premier," said Fran DuMelle, deputy managing director of the American Lung Association. "There is so much concern about [finding] a product with less chance of cancer that attention may be drawn away from the risk of heart disease."
RJR is putting a premium price on Eclipse of 10 cents a pack more than regular cigarettes.
The company won't discuss marketing spending other than to say it is in line with the introduction of a major new premium brand.
Mr. Iauco said the company hopes to get enough information from Chattanooga to proceed to addtional markets later this year.
Competitors have patented some similar processes and are expected to closely watch the results of RJR's test.