RIP Coalition calls for new cigarette standard to cut fires.



Monday 13 November 2006

News Release:  Embargo: 00:01hrs Monday 13th November 2006
An estimated 1,300 lives could be saved in Europe each year[1] if reduced ignition propensity (RIP) cigarettes – also known as fire safer cigarettes – were manufactured and sold, instead of the current standard cigarettes.

Figures for the UK show that fires started by cigarettes kill more people than any other kind of fire – accounting for one third of all accidental fatal fires in the home. [2] RIP/fire safer cigarettes have been successfully introduced into New York and other states in the USA and countries such as Canada. To help combat the needless deaths caused by cigarette fires, a new coalition, called the RIP Coalition, has been formed in the UK to campaign for the same standard in the UK.

Reduced ignition propensity cigarettes are different from standard cigarettes as they have ultra-thin concentric bands or “speed bumps” to restrict oxygen access to the burning end of the cigarette, causing the cigarette to go out if not “puffed” by the smoker. Tobacco industry documents reveal that the “speed bump” production technology has been available for 20 years, but the industry has chosen not to make these cigarettes for the UK market. [3]

The RIP Coalition [4] is made up of the Chief Fire Officers Association and fire services across the country, as well as the British Burn Association, public health organisations and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health. It is joining forces with the EU RIP Alliance[5] to push for new legislation to introduce a RIP standard for cigarettes across Europe, which could reduce the risk of fires by up to two thirds[6].  This week is crucial, as on Wednesday 15th November the General Product Safety Directive regulatory committee is meeting to discuss the introduction of such a standard.

The UK, Ireland, Sweden and Finland are already supportive of this legislation, as is the European Commission, but support from the majority of Member States is needed in Europe to ensure that only RIP cigarettes are manufactured and sold in the UK.

Sir Ken Knight, London’s Fire Commissioner and Board member of the Chief Fire Officers Association, said:

“I am delighted that this new coalition has been set up to work for European regulations requiring cigarettes to be fire safer. This standard has already been shown to work in the United Stated and Canada, and could mean a big fall in the number of domestic fires if it was introduced in the UK and across the European Union. Far too many people still die or are seriously injured every year in avoidable fires involving cigarettes. As far as fire and rescue service is concerned, the sooner the new standard comes in, the better.” 

Deborah Arnott, Director of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:

“It’s sickening the way much of the tobacco Industry has fought and continues to fight against the introduction of standards which would reduce the number of fires caused by cigarettes. It’s been twenty years since the tobacco industry developed the technology to reduce the likelihood of cigarettes starting fires, in that time thousands of lives could have been saved. Cigarette-started fires cause death, disfigurement and distress, which could be prevented by simple design changes. If the industry won’t introduce the necessary changes itself, it should be regulated, just like other unsafe products.”

Dr Keith Judkins, Chairman of the Prevention Committee, British Burn Association said:

“Fires started by cigarettes lead to a significant proportion of the 250,000 people we see in NHS hospitals each year with burns. The injuries from cigarette-started fires may be disabling or deadly, are always life-changing, and could so easily be prevented – all it needs is a simple design change in the cigarette. There aren’t many causes of fire which could be significantly reduced simply by better design; it is surely right to do so whenever possible. It should be a priority of the UK and the EU to bring in regulation or legislation to help protect people from these devastating fires.  Of course, the best prevention is to give up smoking, but failing that my colleagues in burn care are convinced this necessary safety step can be delayed no longer.”

 

Notes and links:

[1] 1,300 across 25 EU Member States calculated by DG Sanco from a survey of Member States.

[2] Fire Statistics, United Kingdom, 2003, Communities and Local Government

[3] M Gunja, G Ferris Wayne, A Landman, G Connolly, A McGuire. The case for fire safe cigarettes made through industry documents. Tobacco Control 2002;1:346-353

[4] For more information about the RIP Coalition see www.firesafercigarettes.org.uk

[5] For more information about the European RIP Alliance see www.epha.org/a/2443

 

[6] ASTM E2187-02b Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes

 

Contact: Deborah Arnott  020 7739 5902 (w) 079 7693 5987 (m) ISDN available