Fire Safer Cigarettes To Be Made Standard

Fire safer cigarettes look set to be stocked on the UK's shop shelves. The Government strongly supports today's agreement across the EU to a set of standards that will enable the manufacture of these cigarettes which if dropped or left unattended will soon go out.
The EU Commission announcement has been welcomed by both the Fire Minister and the Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser.

Fire Minister Parmjit Dhanda said:

Parmjit Dhanda"We all know that both the safest and healthiest action is to stop smoking altogether. But the Government also has a duty to keep looking for ways to cut the numbers of fires and fire deaths. Dropped or poorly extinguished cigarettes are a major cause of accidental fires - every year they cause hundred of deaths and injuries - so this new standard of cigarettes should provide extra protection to the public.

We estimate that having fire safer cigarettes as standard in the UK could save up to 120 lives per year. Across Europe this could amount to up to 1,000 lives saved and 11,000 injuries avoided. And fire safer cigarettes would also help in the drive to reduce the £90million per year cost of fire in the UK.

"We have been pushing for a long time fire safer cigarettes to be the norm across the European Union and this should now become reality, so this is excellent news. But setting a European standard can be quite a long process, which is why the government is also to consult on fire safer cigarettes being introduced as soon as possible in the UK. The government will also keep on getting out the Fire Kills messages telling smokers to 'put it out, right out'."

Cigarettes burn at hundreds of degrees Celsius and as currently manufactured they will usually continue burning down to the filter - whether they are being smoked or not. A dropped or poorly extinguished cigarette can start a devastating fire, and smoking materials (predominantly cigarettes) are the single biggest cause of both fires and fire deaths.
Fire safer cigarettes are produced differently - bands of thicker paper placed down the length of the cigarette act as 'speed bumps' will extinguish it if it's not being smoked and therefore provide greater - but not total - protection against accidental fires.

These are also known and Reduced or Lower Ignition Propensity cigarettes.

Fire deaths are at their lowest level since the late 1950s, and between 1995 and 2005 fatal casualties from accidental fires dropped by 36%, from 481 to 310 deaths. But the government is committed to keep driving this down and to keep looking for new and innovative ways of achieving this.

Between 1995 and 2005 32% of fatal fires were smoking related and it is clear that this is an area where fires deaths can fall further and contribute significantly to the overall reduction in accidental fire deaths.

The European Union Commission's Committee of the General Product Safety Directive met today - 29 November 2007 - and agreed to mandate CEN, the EU's standards making body, to develop a pan-European standard for production of fire safer cigarettes. Once agreed this standard will be the norm for all cigarettes in EU member states.

Both the government and the fire and rescue service in the UK have long supported this work and have pushed for the safest possible standards for cigarettes to further drive down fire deaths.

Speaking today at the European Commission the Government's Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser Sir Ken Knight said:

"The decision in Europe today is a major step forward towards reducing the unnecessary loss of life from fire. It is the most vulnerable in society who die in fire, and 30% of all fire deaths in the home in the UK are caused by smoking materials. I look forward to playing an active part with European colleagues to produce a new standard for fire safer cigarettes through the European standards body (CEN) to reduce the risk of fire across the EU."

Canada, Australia plus 22 States in the USA have introduced fire safer cigarettes and early signs from New York State are that accidental fire deaths have fallen.

The government is also committed to seeing fire safer cigarettes as the standard for all cigarettes bought and sold as quickly as possible. Although the European standard setting process is likely to take several years, the government will shortly be consulting on the introduction of an early standard for the UK based on the USA model.

Consultees will include the Chief Fire Officers' Association, the Fire Brigades Union, anti-smoking groups and tobacco manufacturers.

Source: GNN


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