Coalition calls on tobacco companies to reduce cigarette ignited fires and save lives

Published on March 16, 2006
Fire service, health, and consumer organizations ask tobacco companies to produce only fire-safe cigarettes

WASHINGTON, DC, March 16, 2006 — The newly-created Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes issued a call to the tobacco companies today to produce and sell only “fire-safe” cigarettes nationwide. The Coalition, which is being launched today, is a national group of fire service members, consumer, elderly, and disabled rights advocates, medical and public health practitioners, and others, coordinated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), who are committed to saving lives and preventing injuries by reducing the threat of cigarette-ignited fires.

“Hundreds of lives are lost each year in fires caused by smoking materials. Yet the technology for fire-safe cigarettes exists,” said NFPA President James M. Shannon. “The tobacco companies need to use this technology now to help stop the senseless loss of life caused by these fires. Many groups and individuals have intersecting interest in saving lives and preventing injury and property destruction. Together, through this Coalition, we will make our voices heard by the tobacco companies and our elected representatives.”

Cigarette-ignited fires are the leading cause of home fire deaths in the United States, killing 700 to 900 people annually. Additionally, thousands of victims suffer devastating burn and lung injuries, and property losses total millions of dollars each year. One in four cigarette fire casualties is not the smoker and many of the victims are children.

“Because of a smoldering cigarette, my life and others’ were changed drastically,” said Cathy Hedrick, whose son, Kenny, a firefighter in Prince George’s County, Maryland, was killed in a cigarette-ignited fire attempting to save the life of a seven-year-old child who also died. “The technology is available now. Industry and government must do everything in their power to save children and firefighters.”

Fire-safe cigarette mandates have passed in California, New York, and Vermont (and for all of Canada). Bills are under consideration in Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

“Tobacco companies will soon be required to produce fire-safe cigarettes for 20 percent of the population of this country,” said Shannon. “More states are right behind. We know also that shareholders within the companies have been asking for responsible action on this issue since 2004. The time to act is now!”

“We should not have a patchwork of cigarette fire safety in this country,” said Jim Burns, president of the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) and New York State Fire Administrator.  “The tobacco companies can put an early end to this process by agreeing to manufacture only fire-safe cigarettes.”

The Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes includes the American Association of Retired PersonsAMERIND Risk Management CorporationAmerican Burn AssociationAmerican Fire Sprinkler AssociationAmerican Society for Testing and Materials InternationalCenter for Campus Fire SafetyHome Safety CouncilInternational Association of Arson InvestigatorsInternational Association of Black Professional Fire FightersInternational Association of Fire ChiefsInternational Association of Fire FightersInternational Fire Marshals AssociationMetropolitan Fire ChiefsNational Association of Emergency Medical TechniciansNational Association of Hispanic FirefightersNational Association of State Fire MarshalsNational Fallen Firefighters FoundationNational Fire Protection AssociationNational Volunteer Fire CouncilPhoenix Society for Burn SurvivorsPublic CitizenSafe Kids Worldwide, and the Trauma Foundation.

The Coalition announced a new Web site, which includes an online petition for interested groups and individuals who support the call to tobacco companies to immediately produce and sell only fire-safe cigarettes.

Contact: Lorraine Carli, NFPA Public Affairs: 617-984-7275, Cell: 617-840-4180