A new safety standard for cigarettes has now come into force across Europe. London Fire Brigade campaigned for this change, which should reduce the number of fires started by smoking materials.
Fire safer cigarettes, also called ‘reduced ignition propensity or ‘RIP’ cigarettes, are cigarettes with ultra-thin bands at intervals down the length of the cigarette. These bands cause the cigarette to go out if not puffed by the smoker.
A fire safer standard is already in force on cigarettes sold in Canada, Australia, Finland, New York and other US states. DCLG undertook some research into the comparisons of the propensity of fire safer cigarettes and conventional cigarettes to ignite textile materials used in a domestic environment. The research estimated that had cigarettes in the UK conformed to the New York standard in 2003, the number of smoking related fires would have been reduced in that year by nearly two thirds.
There are about 800 fires a year in London that are started by smoking materials. Between January 2005 and November 2011 there were 90 fire related fire deaths where smoking materials have been the source of ignition.
Since 2005 LFEPA has worked as part of a coalition of organisations including UK fire services and health and tobacco control groups, calling for the introduction of a fire safer standard for cigarettes in Europe.
In 2008 European Union countries voted for a new “fire safer standard” for all cigarettes sold in the EU and requested that the European standards body, CEN, develop it. The standard setting process is now complete and the new standard was agreed on 18 November 2010. It came into force across the EU on 17 November 2011.
Although this is a voluntary standard, manufacturers have a strong incentive to comply, as the standard will provide a ‘presumption of safety’ for cigarettes manufactured within it. If a cigarette does not comply with the standard, member state authorities (in the UK, this would be Trading Standards) would be able to take action - such as withdrawing it from the market.
With all cigarettes in the EU fulfilling this fire safety requirement, the European Commission estimates that one to two lives could be saved every day.