Fire-safe cigarettes could have prevented Coronation Street tragedy

Friday 05 March 2004

ASH news release: For immediate release: Friday 5th March 2004

In a dramatic scene to be screened on Monday night’s episode of Coronation Street, a fire caused by a dropped cigarette leads to the destruction of a factory and leaves the lives of two of the soap’s stars hanging by a thread. But this dreadful carnage could have been prevented, says ASH, if Janice’s cigarette had been self-extinguishing. More than 5,000 fires a year in the UK are caused by cigarettes, with the loss of around 150 lives. Many of these could be avoided if tobacco companies were required to make cigarettes fire-safe.

Internal tobacco industry documents show that the companies have the technology to do this but didn’t act in the past because they feared that marketing fire-safe cigarettes would be a tacit admission that earlier versions were less safe. [1]

Now, following legislation passed last year, New York State will require all cigarettes sold in the state to be self-extinguishing. [2] The new law comes into effect on 28 June 2004.

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

“It is scandalous that tobacco companies have failed to make their products less of a fire hazard. They have had the technology to make fire-safe cigarettes for almost 20 years and yet failed to market them to avoid costly law suits. This shows their callous disregard for public safety and demonstrates the need for an independent tobacco regulatory body to force the industry to make their products fire-safe.”

ASH is writing to the Tobacco Manufacturers Association to demand that cigarettes sold in the UK are subject to similar safety standards.

Notes and links:

[1] The case for fire safe cigarettes made through industry documents. Tobacco Control 2002; 11 (4): 346-353.

[2] New York to require ‘fire-safe’ cigarettes in June. NACS Online, 6 Jan. 2004


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