Fire-Safe Cigarettes Will Save Lives

The introduction of fire-safe cigarettes in Australia would save lives, millions of dollars in damage and contribute to bushfire reduction, according to an editorial review published in the current issue of The Medical Journal of Australia.

Simon Chapman, Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney, says at lease 4 574 fires are caused directly by cigarettes and smokers' materials around Australia annually, and an unknown proportion of another 78 894 fires of indeterminate origin could be associated with smoking.

Professor Chapman said around 14 people in Australia, many of them infants, die in cigarette-caused fires annually and that about seven per cent of all bushfires are caused by discarded cigarettes.

"In 1998-99, smoking-related fires throughout Australia cost some $52.1 million in health costs, private property damage and fire service costs - plus an estimated $28.5 million in intangible costs, such as the value of lives lost in such fires," Professor Chapman said.

Fire industry leaders unanimously support the introduction of regulations to reduce the fire risk of cigarettes.

Burn accelerants are commonly added to cigarette paper. Citrate is the burning agent in the paper of regular manufactured cigarettes. Papers for hand rolled cigarettes contain only traces of citrate.

In the USA, tobacco companies have patented fire-safe cigarettes, which research suggests would be acceptable to smokers.

Evidence from internal tobacco company documents shows that the tobacco industry is concerned about product liability issues relating to fires caused by cigarettes.

Legislation on fire-safe cigarettes has been passed in the State of New York (effective from July this year) and Canada (effective from October 2005), but a major impediment to regulating fire-safe cigarettes in Australia is that the constituents of tobacco products are totally unregulated.

"This regulatory 'no-man's land' should be replaced by a national tobacco act, which would allow complete regulation of all aspects of tobacco manufacturing and marketing," Professor Chapman said.

"In the event that a national tobacco act was opposed by one or both of the major political parties, interim regulations should be introduced, in line with those introduced in the Canadian and New York State jurisdictions," Professor Chapman said.

The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.

CONTACT     Professor Simon CHAPMAN                              0438 340 304

            Judith             TOKLEY, AMA Public Affairs,             0408 824 306 / 02 6270 5471

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