There are approximately 700 to 900 deaths per year in the US as a result of unattended cigarette fires. New technology has provided us with a fireproof cigarette; a way to reduce your ability to burn yourself when you are not actively smoking. Cigarette makers now wrap cigarettes in two or three thin bands of less porous paper that act as “speed bumps.” If a lit cigarette is left unattended, it will automatically turn off when combustion reaches one of these bands. Fireproof cigarettes are now mandatory across Canada and in the US states of New York, Vermont, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, and California. Seventeen more US states will adopt the law in 2008 and 2009. History of fireproof cigarettes
A house fire in 1929 caused by a cigarette in Lowell, Massachusetts, prompted an American congresswoman named Edith Nourse Rogers to ask the National Bureau of Standards to develop a cigarette that “snubs itself.” In late March 1932, The Boston Herald covered a story noting that the Bureau had produced a “self-deprecating” cigarette, and urged cigarette manufacturers to embrace the idea. However, no cigarette company implemented the project. In 1974, Senator Phil Hart introduced a bill to the United States Senate that required “self-extinguishing” cigarettes. It was approved by the Senate, but was later defeated by the tobacco lobby in the US House of Representatives. It wasn’t until 1979, when five children and their parents were tragically killed in a cigarette fire in Westwood, MA, that the issue of fireproof cigarettes advanced. Congressman Joe Moakley was urged to introduce a fireproof cigarette bill in the United States House of Representatives. In 1980, Moakley joined Senator Alan Cranston and then Senator John Heinz in 1984 to introduce the bill to the United E cigarette States Senate. Current efforts
After being introduced to the Senate in the mid-1980s, the fireproof cigarettes bill underwent extensive testing and investigative methods overseen by the Technical Study Group (under President Reagan).
In 1990, President Bush signed the Moakleys Fire Safe Cigarettes Act and funded another three-year research effort to find an effective “test method” that would establish fire safety performance standards for cigarettes. In 1993, the Technical Advisory Group overseeing the program reported that the “test method” had been developed. Moakley’s last introduction of the Fire Safe Cigarette Act was in 1999. It required the institution of a cigarette fire safety standard and would require the Department of Consumer Product Safety to employ the standards within 18 months. However, the bill stalled in Congress. Moakley died shortly after, and the cause was taken up by Senators Durbin and Brownback, and Congressmen Markey and King. New York adopts the test method
Victory finally came in 2000 when New York became the first state to adopt the “test method” and the law went into effect in 2004. Legislation on fireproof cigarettes is now being introduced in several other states. and countries.
Unsupervised cigarette fires are the number one cause of fire-related deaths in the US.
In 2003, there were approximately 2,600 cigarette-related fires. By 2005, that number had dropped by 22%, a significant drop. A 2005 Harvard-led research study found that regular cigarettes burn to the end 99% of the time, while fireproof cigarettes burn to the end only 10% of the time. They also found that there was no significant difference in taste between the two types, no substantial difference in toxicity levels, no increase in the cost of a pack of cigarettes, and the percentage of cigarette sales remained the same.