Should We Require `Fire-Safe' Smokes?

For almost a century, public debate about fire safety and Cigarettes has included discussions about making "fire-safe" Cigarettes, which use special banded ...

For almost a century, public debate about fire safety and Cigarettes has included discussions about making "fire-safe" Cigarettes, which use special banded papers that are self-extinguishing unless a smoker puffs on them. For decades, attempts to pass federal and state laws mandating the sale of fire-safe Cigarettes failed, despite claims that unattended Cigarettes spark fires that kill an average of 700 to 900 people nationwide each year.

But in 2004, New York state adopted a law banning sales of all Cigarettes that are not fire-safe. Since then several other states, including California, Illinois and most recently Oregon, have passed similar legislation. In Connecticut, state lawmakers are considering such a law.

"Tested technology, creating Cigarettes that have a Reduced ignition propensity, which is the technical phrase for fire-safe Cigarettes, meaning that the Cigarettes self-extinguish if left alOne, already exists.

Cigarette companies have been making them and selling them throughout various regions of the country.

Cigarette manufacturers are requiRed to produce and sell fire-safe Cigarettes throughout all of Canada, New York state, Vermont, California, and legislation recently signed in Illinois, New Hampshire and Massachusetts require fire-safe Cigarettes in those states.

The remaining New England states, Connecticut, Maine and Rhode island, are also considering fire-safe cigarette legislation in this session.

Prior to the remaining three New England states, 25 percent of the citizens of america will be protected by fire-safe cigarette legislation.

One in four of the fatalities caused by Cigarettes are not the smokers. They are someOne else in the house, whether it be a child or a family member or someOne who's spending the night, a friend of the children, a sleepover or something along that line.

There is a standardized test that already exists, [american Society for Testing and Materials] test E-2187, which certifies that the Cigarettes meet this performance standard so that technology does not need to be invented.

And once the brand is certified to that test, it can be used in multiple states.

The banded technology does not limit the production of the cigarette. And sales and revenue figures from cigarette retailers were not affected in New York state in the follow-up studies that they've dOne since that legislation was passed there."

- Robert Duval of Plainfield, New England regional manager for the National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, Mass. (From testimony to the state legislature)

"R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. agrees with the goal of Reducing fires caused by careless smoking. There is no convincing evidence, however, that current congressional or state legislation to establish "fire-safe" standards for Cigarettes will significantly Reduce the number of fires or fire losses caused by the careless handling of Cigarettes.

Reducing fires caused by Cigarettes is a worthy goal, but Cigarettes that comply with such new standards will not be "fire-safe."

This is a complicated issue. Identifying Cigarettes as "fire-safe" carries some risk of instilling a false sense of security in consumers, who may errOneously believe that they can carelessly handle Cigarettes without concern for starting a fire. The name "fire-safe" suggests that a carelessly handled lit cigarette will be less likely to cause a fire when it comes in contact with flammable material. But, to date, no technology exists that would prevent a lit cigarette, when handled inappropriately, from ever starting a fire under such circumstances.

Anything that burns and is handled in a careless manner represents a potential fire hazard if it comes in contact with flammable material. This includes a range of everyday consumer products, from Cigarettes to matches to candles.

Fires started by Cigarettes are not the work of arsonists. Rather, they are the unfortunate result of individuals' thoughtless behavior - such as falling asleep with a lit cigarette, discarding it carelessly or even just leaving it unattended.

Extensive testing with commercial upholstery fabrics demonstrates that laboratory tests for "fire-safe" Cigarettes have little, if any, relationship to how cigarette-related fires occur. Cigarettes that "pass" various laboratory tests, and thus could potentially be labeled "fire-safe," do not necessarily in real life Reduce the likelihood of ignition when dropped on the wide variety of upholsteRed furniture fabrics used in homes in real-life situations, or when dropped on anything else outside the lab."

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