ASH calls for swift implementation of standard for 'fire safer' cigarettes following move by Finland
Sheila Pantry OBE
The UK Action for Smoking and Health (ASH) congratulated the Finnish Government on 31 March 2010 for being the first country in Europe to introduce fire safety standards in cigarettes and called on the European Commission to adopt a new standard for reduced fire risk cigarettes across the whole European Union by August 2010 in line with the timetable agreed in 2008.
The call is supported by the RIP Coalition, a UK coalition of over 60 national and local organisations, including the Fire Brigades Union, Help the Aged, the UK Public Health Association and ASH. 
Reduced ignition propensity (RIP), or fire safer, cigarettes are designed to self-extinguish when left unattended. RIP cigarettes are already compulsory in Canada, Australia and much of the United States. The European Union is currently developing a standard to be introduced across Europe, but Finland has decided not to wait and has introduced the new standard from today.
On average two people a week in the UK die in a house fire caused by a cigarette. In 2007, the last year for which figures are available, 3,000 fires were caused by smoking materials in the home. A 2006 report  showed that if the RIP standard was in force in the UK, this could have:
- reduced cigarette related fires by two thirds
- reduced fatalities from 123 to 45
- reduced non fatal casualties from 1416 to 530
Deborah Arnott, ASH Chief Executive said:
"Finland has led the way in action to prevent the hundreds of unnecessary domestic fires every year that are caused by cigarettes. The delay in agreeing a European standard is totally unacceptable and is costing lives."
Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union said:
"Tobacco products are the major cause of domestic fires in the UK and of deaths by fire in the home. This is a tragedy that could be avoided if cigarettes were made safer. We urge the EU to adopt a fire-safer standard without further delay."
 The Reduced Ignition Propensity (RIP) coalition is an alliance representing fire fighters, burn victims and health professionals. www.firesafercigarettes.org.uk
For more details on ASH see www.ash.org.uk
Also in March 2010 Wyoming State, USA passed fire-safe cigarette legislation. This marks the 50th state to pass legislation aimed at reducing the number of cigarette fires and fire fatalities.
According to the US National Fire Protection Association www.nfpa.org (NFPA), cigarettes are the leading cause of home fire fatalities, killing between 700-900 people a year in the USA.
The US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) launched the Coalition for Fire-Safe
Cigarettes in March of 2006
The Coalition is made up of fire service members, consumer and disability rights advocates, medical and public health practitioners, and others committed to saving lives and preventing injuries by reducing the threat of cigarette-ignited fires. When the Coalition began, New York, Vermont and California had passed such legislation. Since that time, every other state passed similar legislation.
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This month's FOCUS article is entitled 28 April 2010 - World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
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Remember 28 April 2010 - World Day of Safety and Health.