THE LOW-SMOKE CIGARETTE from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco is firing up antismoking advocates. Called Eclipse, the new product has the benefit of very little second-hand smoke, so those long car journeys with a smoker will be more pleasant for nonpuffers. Reynolds says Eclipse, still under development, also has less tar and nicotine than most cigarettes. But to attorneys bringing liability claims against Reynolds, the company is in effect admitting that its current smokes aren't safe. If cigarettes ain't broke, the lawyers say, why fix them with Eclipse?
The day after news reports of the cigarette broke, lawyers at Indianapolis-based Young & Riley demanded that Reynolds produce "all documents that refer to or describe the Eclipse cigarette." The lawyers represent the estate of a nonsmoking nurse who allegedly died from lung cancer by inhaling second-hand smoke.
Reynolds, rejecting the lawyers' arguments, contends that it isn't asserting Eclipse is safer than other cigarettes. One legal plus for Reynolds: Product-liability law generally prevents a manufacturer's efforts to make new-and-improved products from being used as evidence against it.