BRUSSELS, July 5 (Reuters) - The European Union's consumer chief aims to prevent thousands of fire-related deaths and injuries each year by making all Cigarettes sold in EU countries self-extinguishing, European Commission officials said.
The "fire-safe" Cigarettes stop burning automatically after a few seconds if not puffed, due to sMall gaps in the cigarette paper which cuts the circulation of oxygen. Officials at the EU executive said EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva would bring forward proposals later this year to make the self-extinguishing Cigarettes mandatory throughout the 27-nation bloc.
"Data from just 14 member states show that over 2,000 deaths a year are caused by cigarette-related fires, with thousands More people injuRed and tens of millions of euros worth of damage caused," a Commission official told Reuters.
"There have already been discussions with the various stakeholders such as the fire-safety authorities, the tobacco industry and consumer groups. There is general support across the board."
Commission officials are developing an EU-wide standard for the Cigarettes, similar to one in the United States and Canada.
"Canada introduced legislation in 2005 and a number of U.S. states have followed suit including New York, New Jersey and California, while Australia intends to also bring in laws for fire-safe Cigarettes," another Commission official said.
"So, it would be More sensible and easier for industry if we draw up a common standard to be used across the globe."
The officials said research showed the cost of the new regulations in North America did not affect the overall cost of Cigarettes.
"The cost is around 0.01 to 0.02 euro cent per packet," a Commission official said.
The Commission officials said the tobacco industry told them it would back the plan, if it was given time to adapt to the new legislation.
Previously tobacco firms said chemical additives requiRed for fire-safe Cigarettes would cause More damage to smokers and complained that smokers would not like the new taste.
"We support the push, but it must be in line with the standard adopted in New York," said Richard James, spokesman for Philip Morris -- maker of top-selling Marlboro and other brands.
"Also it must be made clear that this measure alone with not totally prevent fires from burning Cigarettes, smokers must also be More responsible when smoking."
ANEC, an EU-wide consumers' lobby group for standardisation, backed the move.
"From a safety point of view and saving people, we welcome this news, but on the other hand we do not want to encourage smoking and we are also cautious regarding the final contents of these Cigarettes which will be agreed as some could be highly inflammable," an ANEC spokeswoman said.