Date: February 12, 2024

The most efficient cigarette

In 1988 the RJ Reynolds tobacco company (RJR) launched product that was called to revolutionise the tobacco industry: “a smokeless cigarette“. RJR was already known by brands such as Camel or Winston and was one of the top tobacco companies worldwide. Under the name Premier, RJR launched a cigarette that only produced a “trace of smoke” and claimed to “be cleaner”.

RJR had a great launch, with even the CNN informing the American population  about its launch.

However, the product barely lasted one year in the market after disastrous customer feedback. The New York times reported that the initial tests in Arizona and Missouri had shown “slow to non-existent” sales and that customer interviews revealed that the product “tastes like burning plastic” or that customers “had to throw them in the sink”.  Other interviewees disclosed that besides the unpleasant taste the product was too hot told.

To RJR’s credit it’s positive that the launch was only performed in few test cities, but even before getting to run those external tests shouldn’t have someone tried them internally? Didn’t anyone realise that the product tasted like burning plastic and that it wasn’t possible to hold because it was too hot? It’s hard to think who RJR thought might have benefited from such product. For existing smokers, why would they want a product that doesn’t produce smoke? Furthermore, if that was the case, wouldn’t they at least want a product that tasted as well as the ones they were used to?  To entice non-smokers, RJR should have come with a product that was appealing to them, tasted nicely and was convenient to hold between fingers (and only maybe then focus on the “clean” attribute).

RJR’s Premier is history and total costs for the product failure were estimated at over $1 billion.

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