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Smokers won't be able to buy Eclipse cigarettes in Atlanta convenience stores, supermarkets or tobacco shops even though that city is R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.'s newest test market for the low-smoke brand.

Instead, the brand will be available only in an RJR-operated Smokers Lounge in that city's North Point Mall.

The Smokers Lounge actually is RJR's second; it opened a similar lounge in Chattanooga, Tenn., the initial test market for Eclipse. That lounge, in Northgate Mall, has operated quietly since June 1996 and, RJR says, has hosted 25,000 to 30,000 visits.


While RJR said the lounges-which do not bear the name of the company or one of its brands-were conceived partly as a convenience to smokers, their bigger purpose is to serve as a testing ground for Eclipse.

"It wouldn't be affordable for us to do it elsewhere without a good marketing reason," said a company spokesman.

RJR will start selling Eclipse this week in the Atlanta lounge; its other brands will not be sold there.

"We wouldn't want to compete with our retail partners," the spokesman said, adding that RJR will also sell coffee, soft drinks and juices. The lounges have attendants who check the identification of all persons trying to go in, to assure they're of legal smoking age.

RJR said the lounges are a good idea for Eclipse because they allow the company to explain to smokers the unusual way the brand, which reduces second-hand smoke by 80% or more, is lit and smoked.

"The attendants are trained to talk to them about Eclipse and explain to them the adjustments a smoker has to make," the spokesman said.


The Atlanta lounge points up the very different ways RJR is testing Eclipse. In Chattanooga, smokers were recruited to try the brand and coached on how to light and smoke it. In Lincoln, Neb., where it went into test only last month, Eclipse was put into full-scale distribution with a major ad campaign, leaving education on how to smoke Eclipse mainly to point-of-purchase videos (AA, Aug. 25).

The brand will be sold only in the lounge in Atlanta, and supported only by some signage. The lounge itself won't be advertised.

Mezzina/Brown, New York, is the Eclipse agency.

Although RJR said it has no plans for more lounges at this point, the venue could be one way for the company to communicate closely with smokers. Because those in the lounge must be at least 21, RJR could display advertising within

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