By CHRIS FARMER-LIES
R. J. Reynolds, the second-largest tobacco company in the United States, began test-marketing a new type of smokeless cigarette in Wisconsin. Revo is a rebranding of Eclipse, which was originally test-marketed from 1994 to 2005. The first phase of the product was Premier, which was originally released in 1989. All products use a carbon tip that heats, rather than burns the tobacco inside. Though it resembles a traditional cigarette, it does not burn down or produce ash. The manufacturer claims that the sidestream and exhaled smoke dissipates more quickly, and it produces less odor. The product is marketed as a less harmful alternative to conventional tobacco products.
Though the product has been available for a number of years, the latest round of test marketing stems from the industry’s interest in alternative products, including electronic cigarettes. According to J. Brice O’Brien, head of consumer marketing for R.J. Reynolds, “Heat-not-burn technology was 20 years ahead of when consumers were ready for it. It needed the mass presence of vapor products to open up an experience-base that smokers understood.” The development, launch, and ultimate failure of Premier cost the company more than $300 million, and was fictionalized in Barbarians at the Gate, a 1993 TV movie starring James Garner.
Revo first hit the Wisconsin market in February 2015, and is available in tobacco and menthol flavors. A pack will cost $6-7 depending on the state. Instructions included in the package indicate that users must inhale 4-5 times before it can be used. Whether this product can be used to circumvent indoor smoking bans is unknown.