Attachment 12.2 Reduced fire risk (RFR) cigarettes

Nicole Antonopoulos and Indra Haslam, updated by Vicki Tumini

Smoking is the leading cause of residential and total fire deaths in at least eight countries, including Australia.1 Between June 2000 and June 2006, 8% of deaths caused by fire in Australia were cigarette related.2 Nearly one-quarter of all fire deaths in Australia in 2004–05 occurred in fires started by cigarettes or matches. The total economic impact of these fires is conservatively estimated at $63 million each year.3

Standard cigarettes are manufactured with added 'burn accelerants' to ensure that the cigarette will keep on burning once lit.4 Left to 'idle' between puffs, a dropped, forgotten or discarded cigarette can start a fire. Fire cause investigators and other fire industry leaders unanimously supported the introduction of regulations to reduce the fire risk of cigarettes.5

Tobacco companies have the technology to manufacture reduced fire risk (RFR) cigarettes and are required to do so by law in Canada and in most states of the US. The European Union issued a standard for RFR cigarettes in November 2010, which member states will be expected to enforce from November 2011.6 In 2008, the number of deaths from fires caused by lit tobacco products in the US fell to the second lowest level since 1980 following the introduction of RFR laws.7

In March 2007, Standards Australia announced the release of an Australian 'standard for reduced fire risk cigarettes' (a tool by which to measure the self-extinguishing properties of cigarettes), which it said was now 'available to State and Federal Governments for inclusion in any future legislation requiring cigarette companies to manufacture reduced fire risk cigarettes.'8

The Trade Practices (Consumer Product Safety Standard) (Reduced Fire Risk Cigarettes) Regulations 2008 commenced on 23 September 2008.9,10 These regulations mandate reduced fire risk standards for:

  • all cigarettes that are manufactured or imported into Australia from 23 March 2010
  • all cigarettes, regardless of the date of manufacture or import, from 23 September 2010.

The date by which all cigarettes must comply was reduced by six months (it was originally 23 March 2011) by the commencement of the Trade Practices (Consumer Product Safety Standard) (Reduced Fire Risk Cigarettes) Amendment Regulations 2009 (No. 1) on 14 April 2009 in the wake of the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria.11

In 2015, several cigarette brands were recalled by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for failing to comply with the mandatory safety standard for reduced fire risk.12 These included TS Blue cigarettes,13 Spoonbill Blue cigarettes,14 Choice Signature Bold 20s, and Choice Signature Classic 20s.15 In November 2016, the ACCC accepted court enforceable undertakings from both Philip Morris Ltd (suppliers of Choice) and Zen Sensation Pty Ltd (suppliers of TS Blue) not to supply cigarettes that do not meet the mandatory safety standard. Philip Morris also agreed to donate $300,000 to the NSW Rural Fire Service.16   

For further information on RFR technology and international requirements for RFR cigarettes, see Chapter 10, Section 10.7.9. The international tobacco industry's response to requests for RFR cigarettes is discussed in Chapter 10, Section 10.7.10. Death and injury caused by tobacco caused fires is discussed in Chapter 3, Section 3.19 and their economic impact is discussed in Chapter 17.

Recent news and research

For recent news items and research on this topic, click here (Last updated June 2018) 

 

References

1. Leistikow B, Martin D and Milano C. Fire injuries, disasters, and costs from cigarettes and cigarette lights: a global overview. Preventative Medicine 2000;312(1):91-9.

2. Hoy M and Morton S. Deaths Associated with Fires Caused by Cigarettes. Melbourne: Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, 2006. Available from: http://www.fire.nsw.gov.au/gallery/files/pdf/research/CigDeathsReport_NCIS_3Oct_2006.pdf

3. Collins D and Lapsley H. The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse to Australian society in 2004-05. P3 2625. Canberra: Department of Health and Ageing, 2008. Available from: http://www.nationaldrugstrategy.gov.au/internet/drugstrategy/publishing.nsf/Content/mono64/$File/mono64.pdf

4. Product Safety Policy Section. The regulation of reduced fire risk cigarettes under the Trade Practices Act 1974. Regulation impact statement June 2008. 2008. Available from: http://www.accc.gov.au/content/item.phtml?itemId=807543&nodeId=aac0bdf39e1ba1d76a42e81eedf77ab1&fn=Reduced%20fire%20risk%20cigarettes%E2%80%94regulation%20impact%20statement%E2%80%94July%202008.doc

5. Chapman S and Balmain A. Time to legislate for fire-safe cigarettes in Australia [Editorial] . Medical Journal of Australia 2004;181:292-3. Available from: http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/181_06_200904/cha10373_fm.html

6. European Committee for Standardization. New standard for self-extinguishing cigarettes. 2010. Available from: http://www.cen.eu/cen/News/PressReleases/Pages/RIPcigarettes.aspx

7. Doss N. USA: Tobacco fire deaths drop to second-lowest since 1980 on safer cigarettes. 2010. Available from: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-21/tobacco-related-u-s-fire-deaths-decline-to-second-lowest-level-since-1980.html

8. Standards Australia. Standard for reduced fire risk cigarettes released [Media release] . Sydney: Standards Australia, 9 March 2007 [viewed 30 May 2008] . Available from: http://www.standards.org.au/downloads/070307_Low_fire_risk_cigarettes_Standard_released.pdf

9. Trade Practices (Consumer Product Safety Standard) (Reduced Fire Risk Cigarettes) Regulations2008. F2008L03475 Available from: http://www.comlaw.gov.au/ComLaw/Legislation/LegislativeInstrument1.nsf/0/3FE64581813B093ECA2574C900006E8A/$file/0817073A080829Z.pdf

10. McClelland R and Bowen C. Mandatory safety standard for reduced fire risk cigarettes [Joint media release by the Hon Robert McClelland MP and the Hon Chris Bowen MP,Media release] . Canberra: Office of the Assistant Treasurer, 2008 [viewed 28 September 2008] . Available from: http://assistant.treasurer.gov.au/DisplayDocs.aspx?doc=pressreleases/2008/078.htm&pageID=003&min=ceb&Year=&DocType

11. Trade Practices (Consumer Product Safety Standard) (Reduced Fire Risk Cigarettes) Amendment Regulations 2009 (No. 1) 1 2009. Select Legislative Instrument 2009 no. 66 Available from: http://www.fedlaw.gov.au/ComLaw/Legislation/LegislativeInstrument1.nsf/previewlodgmentattachments/A7F3A3A2300551DCCA257598000FE71A/$file/0908157A090331EV.htm

12. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. ACCC testing prompts recalls of fire risk cigarettes. 2015. Available from: https://www.productsafety.gov.au/news/accc-testing-prompts-recalls-of-fire-risk-cigarettes

13. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Zen Sensation Pty Ltd—TS blue cigarettes. 2015. Available from: https://www.productsafety.gov.au/recall/zen-sensation-pty-ltd-ts-blue-cigarettes?source=recalls

14. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Tap United Pty Limited—Spoonbill Blue cigarettes. 2015. Available from: https://www.productsafety.gov.au/recall/tap-united-pty-limited-spoonbill-blue-cigarettes?source=recalls

15. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Philip Morris Limited—Choice signature bold 20's and Choice signature classic 20's. 2015. Available from: https://www.productsafety.gov.au/recall/philip-morris-limited-choice-signature-bold-20s-and-choice-signature-classic-20s

16. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. ACCC acts on fire hazard cigarettes. 2016. Available from: http://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/accc-acts-on-fire-hazard-cigarettes

 

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