Safer smokes

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If a "safer" cigarette exists, it should be brought to market and smokers should be able to hear about it through advertising. Period. The "if" is the big question, and that's where the debate over R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.'s supposedly lower-risk Eclipse should be fought. Yet some will fight the idea of safer smokes.

Many in the anti-smoking movement would argue quitting is the only course that should be put to smokers; that half-measures such as "safer" cigarettes, even if scientifically supported, entice smokers to continue consuming a product that is still dangerous to their health--even if it may be less risky than conventional cigarettes. Moreover, such a product could generate new profits for tobacco companies. These arguments, however, offer nothing to the millions of nicotine-addicted Americans who are unable or unwilling to quit.

RJR's plan to test "lower-risk" claims for Eclipse will bring the issue of safer cigarettes front and center. The science supporting its lower risk positioning will understandably be viewed with intense suspicion. But there should be a place in the market for a genuinely lower-risk cigarette when one comes along.

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