Fire-safe cigarette

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Fire-safe cigarettes, abbreviated "FSC", also known as lower ignition propensity (LIP), reduced fire risk (RFR), self-extinguishing, fire-safe or reduced ignition propensity (RIP) cigarettes, are cigarettes that are designed to extinguish more quickly than standard cigarettes if ignored, with the intention of preventing accidental fires. In the United States, "FSC" above the barcode signifies that the cigarettes sold are fire standards compliant (FSC).

Fire-safe cigarettes are produced by adding two to three thin bands of less-porous cigarette paper along the length of the cigarette, creating a series of harder-to-burn “speed bumps”.[1] As the cigarette burns down, it will tend to be extinguished at each of these points unless the user is periodically intensifying the flame by inhaling.[1] Contrary to myth, FSC cigarettes use no more ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) adhesive than conventional cigarettes, and its use as an adhesive predates the introduction of FSC technology.[2]


In 1929, a cigarette-ignited fire in Lowell, Massachusetts, caught the attention of U.S. Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers (D-MA); she called for the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)) to develop the first less fire-prone cigarette, which NBS introduced in 1932. The Boston Herald American covered the story on 31 March 1932, noting that after three years of research the NBS had developed a “self-snubbing” cigarette and had suggested that cigarette manufacturers “take up the idea”. None did.[3]

In 1973, the United States Congress established the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to protect the public from hazardous products. Congress excluded tobacco products from its jurisdiction while assigning it responsibility for flammable fabrics. The CPSC regulated the flammability of mattresses and worked with furniture manufacturers to establish voluntary flammability standards[4] for upholstered furniture, although more recently[when?] those standards have come to be considered mandatory.

In 1978 Andrew McGuire, a burn survivor, started a grassroots campaign to prevent house fire deaths by changing the cigarette.[5] McGuire secured funding for an investigation into cigarettes and fires which became Cigarettes and Sofas: How the Tobacco Lobby Keeps the Home Fires Burning. Massachusetts congressman Joe Moakley introduced federal FSC legislation in the autumn of 1979 after a cigarette fire in his district killed a family of seven; California senator Alan Cranston authored a matching Senate bill.

To forestall legislation mandating the inclusion of fire-safety features in cigarettes, the US Tobacco Institute financed a fire prevention education program in parallel with the campaign Fighting Fire with Firemen.[6][7]

In 1984, the Cigarette Safety Act funded a three-year study National Bureau of Standards (later NIST) study on how cigarettes and furnishings ignited and remained lit. “This understanding of the physics of ignition enabled the NBS team to develop two test methods for the ignition strength of cigarettes, under the auspices of the CPSC. This reported to US Congress in 1987 that it was technically feasible and maybe commercially feasible to make a cigarette that was less likely to start fires.[8] Legislative activity continued in the states while the federal government, cigarette companies, and advocates discussed next steps. McGuire and colleagues continued to inform advocates about cigarette fires and prevention strategies, legislation and liability.[5][9][10][11]

A compromise led to the US Fire Safe Cigarette Act of 1990, which required additional NIST research on the interaction of burning cigarettes with soft furnishings, such as upholstered furniture and beds.[12] The resulting study, while contentious, laid the groundwork for a flammability test method for cigarettes.[12][13] Federal efforts to implement a standard stalled, as the Reagan and Bush administrations preferred free markets to regulation. The grassroots campaign focused on state efforts. McGuire continued to publish progress reports.[14][15][16]

Based on the NIST research, ASTM International's Committee E05 on Fire Standards developed E 2187, a "Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes", which evaluates cigarette's capacity to set fire to bedding and upholstered furniture in 2002.[12] In 2000, New York passed the first state law requiring the introduction of cigarettes that have a lower likelihood of starting a fire, with flammability evaluated by E 2187.[12] By spring 2006, four more states had passed laws modeled on New York's: Vermont, New Hampshire, California, and Illinois. McGuire published a campaign update.[17] In 2006 The National Fire Protection Association decided to fund the Fire Safe Cigarette Coalition to accelerate this grassroots movement.[18]

Since 1982, multiple lawsuits have been filed regarding cigarette-ignited fire deaths and injuries. The first successful lawsuit resulted in a 2 million dollar settlement for a young child severely burned in a car fire allegedly caused by a cigarette.[19]

Regional implementation[edit]

United States[edit]

As of August 26, 2011, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had passed state legislation modeled on New York's original bill, mandating the sale of fire-safe cigarettes.[20] State laws generally contain provisions permitting the sale of non-FSCs that have been tax-stamped by wholesalers and retailers in the state prior to the effective date of the state's FSC law. The laws require cigarettes to exhibit a greater likelihood of self-extinguishing using the E2187 test from ASTM International. The E2187 standard is cited in U.S. state legislation and is the basis for the fire-safe cigarette law in effect in Canada. It is being considered for legislation in other countries.[1]


On October 1, 2005, Canada became the first country to implement a nationwide cigarette fire safety standard. The law requires that all cigarettes manufactured in or imported into Canada must burn their full length no more than 25% of the time when tested using ASTM International method E2187-04: Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes. The law is based on the New York State legislation. Each year in Canada, fires started by smokers' materials kill approximately 70 people and cause 300 injuries, according to a study conducted by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.[21]


On November 30, 2007, 27 EU states approved a European Commission proposal to require the tobacco industry to use fire-retardant paper in all cigarettes. The European Committee for Standardization said that these types of products would be universally available.[22] In November 2010, the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) Committee of the European Commission agreed the standard and reached the consensus that enforcement of the standard (including at the point of sale to consumers) would start “about 12 months from its publication by CEN” – around 17 November 2011, with publication of reference to the standard in the Official Journal of the European Union. [23] The standard was implemented on that date.[24]

In the UK a proposal to ban the "old style" cigarettes in order to implement a fire-safe alternative was dropped as it is encompassed within the EU directive.[25]

West of Scotland MSP Stewart Maxwell was a long-time advocate of ‘fire-safer cigarettes’ and called for Scotland to take a lead in developing a European standard. Maxwell consistently called on the Scottish Government to use its influence to pressure the UK Government to ensure the introduction of ‘fire safer cigarettes’ as soon as possible.[26]


In Australia, around 14 people are claimed to die annually from cigarette related fires.[27] The government has accepted the proposal for FSCs and is in the process of implementing regulations.[28] Cigarette companies were required to change their products to ensure that cigarettes self-extinguish more readily before the regulations came into effect in March 2010.[29]

Responses from tobacco companies[edit]

In 2000 Philip Morris introduced the 'fire-safe' Merit cigarette, with two thicker paper bands to slow the burning. Later that year, the company received hundreds of complaints alleging that long, partly burned tobacco was falling off the tips of lit Merit cigarettes, burning skin and flammable items. An in-house scientist (Michael Lee Watkins) analyzed the data and concluded Merit to actually be a greater fire risk than conventional cigarettes. In early 2002 Watkins was fired, and Merit continued to be marketed. For concealing information about the fire hazard, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Philip Morris.[30][31]


  1. ^ a b c Wilhelm, Richard (May 2008). "Where There's Smoke There Doesn't Have to Be Fire". Retrieved 21 January 2010.
  2. ^ "Myths versus realities". Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes. National Fire Protection Association
  3. ^ "Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes". Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  4. ^ "UFAC :: Upholstered Furniture Action Council". Retrieved 12 April 2018.
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  8. ^ Technical Study Group on Cigarette and Little Cigar Fire Safety. Toward a Less Fire-Prone Cigarette. Washington, DC: Consumer product Safety Commission, 1987
  9. ^ Grannis, A. B. (1983). "The New York Cigarette Fire Safety Act". New York State Journal of Medicine. 83 (13): 1299. PMID 6582379.
  10. ^ DeFrancesco S, Teret S, McGuire A. (1986). "Liability for Cigarette-related Fire Death and Injury". Trial Lawyer's Quarterly. 17 (4): 9–15.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ McGuire, Andrew (1989). "Fires, Cigarettes and Advocacy". Law, Medicine and Health Care. 17 (1): 73–77. doi:10.1111/j.1748-720X.1989.tb01074.x. PMID 2770350. S2CID 38131033.
  12. ^ a b c d "Test Method Measures Ignition Strength of Cigarettes". Standardization News. ASTM International. May 2003. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  13. ^ Consumer Product Safety Commission (August 1993). Overview: Practicability of Developing a Performance Standard to Reduce Cigarette Ignition Propensity.
  14. ^ McGuire A. (1992) "The Case of the Fire Safe Cigarette: the Synergism Between State and Federal Legislation," in Bergman A.B. (ed): Political Approaches to Injury Control at the State Level. University of Washington Press, Seattle/London, pp. 79–87. ISBN 978-0295971766
  15. ^ McGuire, A., Daynard, R. (1992). "When Cigarettes Start Fires: Industry Liability". Trial Magazine. 28 (11): 44–49.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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  19. ^ Levin, Myron (October 2, 2003) Tobacco Giant, in a Shift, Pays Victim. LA times
  20. ^ "States that have passed fire-safe cigarette laws – NFPA". Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  21. ^ "Canada is First Country to Require Fire-Safe Cigarettes". Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes. October 1, 2005. Archived from the original on 2008-05-12.
  22. ^ "New standard for self-extinguishing cigarettes". 18 November 2010. Archived from the original on 2012-03-10. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  23. ^ "Justice and Consumers" (PDF). European Commission – European Commission. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
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  25. ^ Campbell, Denis (2007-05-27). "New 'fire-safe' cigarettes will put themselves out". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
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  27. ^ Chapman, Simon; Balmain, Antony (20 September 2004). "Time to legislate for fire-safe cigarettes in Australia". The Medical Journal of Australia. 181 (6): 292–293. doi:10.5694/j.1326-5377.2004.tb06289.x. PMID 15377234. S2CID 1524662.
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  31. ^ "Merit Cigarettes -". Retrieved 12 April 2018.

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