Premier Lights

From Tobacco Products

Jump to: navigation, search

Market Dates: 1988 - 1989
Tested 198810 St. Louis, Phoenix/Tuscon AZ



RJ Reynolds
RJ Reynolds


The Premier cigarette was a smokeless cigarette released in the USA in 1988 by the American tobacco company R.J. Reynolds. It worked by heating and aerosolizing tobacco flavor and was intended to reduce or eliminate the unhealthy side effects associated with smoking, both to the smoker and to the people around the smoker. It never achieved popularity, as smokers complained about a charcoal - like aftertaste, and although it looked like a conventional cigarette, special instructions were required to teach smokers how to light it. RJR estimated that it would take two or three packs for a smoker to acquire a taste for Premier, but in practice many smokers only smoked one cigarette and shared the rest of the pack. R.J. Reynolds reintroduced the concept behind the Premier cigarette as the Eclipse brand in the 1990's. (Wikipedia)

Heated, rather than burned, tobacco .04mg nicotine, Smokeless Cigarette


Significantly reduced secondhand smoke compared to tobacco-burning cigarettes. Because of Premier's unique design, many of the constituents commonly found in cigarette smoke were dramatically reduced in, or eliminated from, the smoke of Premier. RJ Reynolds' objectives for Premier:[1]

  • Simplify the mainstream and sidestream smoke chemistry by eliminating or reducing compounds produced by burning tobacco.
  • Minimize the potential for biological activity.
  • Minimize environmental tobacco smoke and its potential annoyance.

Product Design Features

  • Cigarette column made of aluminum capsules containing tobacco pellets
  • A burning carbon element at the tip warms the tobacco and the flavoring ingredients without burning them, such that smokers inhale a vapor composed mainly of water and glycerol
  • Rod nicotine yield: not conducted or not available
  • Filter ventilation: not conducted or not available




Industry Documents


Market Testing

  • Reynolds spent over $800 million developing the brand
  • Introduced in St. Louis, Phoenix and Tucson, October 1988
  • One month prior to its introduction, the FDA issued RJ Reynolds a warning indicating that if the company proceeded with marketing, efforts, it “[did] so at its own risk,” as the FDA had yet to decide whether the product should be classified as a drug or device subject to federal regulation

Advertising and Selling Messages

  • Advertised as providing “cleaner enjoyment” than other cigarettes, yet RJR insisted they would not make any health or safety claims
  • Slogan: “The Cleaner Smoke”
  • Premier’s introduction was accompanied by a print campaign in local media that described reduced emissions


Prior to its test market introduction, Reynolds conducted limited testing of Premier to assess its acceptability with consumers. The first large-scale consumer testing of Premier was conducted in January, 1988. Overall acceptability of Premier was extremely low. The stated intent of consumers to purchase Premier was significantly below that compared to tobacco-burning cigarettes (16% for Premier, versus 51% for Reynolds' Now brand, and 76% for Reynolds' Camel Light brand). The primary factors limiting the overall acceptance of Premier in consumer testing were artificial taste, aftertaste, and aroma. Follow-up research suggested that while taste was the primary contributor to the low overall acceptability of Premier, changes in smoking ritual (e.g., lighting difficulty, absence of visual cues indicating remaining puffs) also played a role.

Reynolds’ marketing of Premier focused not on its potential health benefits, but instead on its purported cleanliness and courtesy benefits. RJ Reynolds, noting a reduction in sidestream smoke, marketed the product as "Premier - The Cleaner Smoke." Its introduction was accompanied by a print advertising campaign in local media that described the reduced emissions from the new product.

Premier faced a lengthy regulatory battle. In 1988, just months before Premier’s introduction, the Coalition on Smoking and Health and the American Medical Association petitioned the FDA to assert jurisdiction over all “smokeless” cigarettes. The petitioners claimed such products are being sold on the “implied is not explicit claim” that they avoid “the traditional health-related risks of smoking.” Nonetheless,after concluding its investigation, the FDA took no action. In fact, an internal appraisal stated, Premier appears to be "a safer alternative."

Premier’s biggest obstacle was consumer acceptability. Although the product looked traditional in design, it required its own instruction booklet showing users how to light it. Further, many smokers complained about its flavor, which some indicated left a charcoal taste in their mouths. Following poor sales and low consumer interest, the product was removed less than one year after introduction. [1]


  • Minimalist hard pack: blue (Lights), green Menthol), red (Regulars)
  • Onsert with smoke constituents

Use and the Consumer

  • Introduced in 1988, but withdrawn from test markets a few months later because of poor consumer acceptance
  • Reynolds would not divulge any sales figures, yet store owners in test market cities indicated that sales had been slow to nonexistent

Smoke Emissions and Human Use

  • FTC (standard ) method: Research by Reynolds suggested reduced emissions
  • Massachusetts: not yet conducted or not available
  • Health Canada: not yet conducted or not available
  • Topography: not yet conducted or not available
  • Human exposure: not yet conducted or not available

Toxicity Analyses

  • Ames method in vitro: Manufacturer claims: smoke is not genotoxic
  • In vivo MSP: Manufacturer claims: smoke is not genotoxic
  • Animal exposure: not yet conducted or not available

Legal Compliance

  • Surgeon General warnings
  • No sales to minors
  • Subject to State and Federal cigarette taxes

Community Response

  • The Coalition on Smoking and Health and the American Medical Association petitioned the FDA to regulate Premier, arguing the product has been promoted as healthier than conventional cigarettes and should thus be regulated as a drug-delivery system


Smoking Article


Personal tools