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Issue # 1403      18 March 2009

Cut butt smoulder before next fire season

The Australian government has been urged to fast-track a new standard for reduced fire risk cigarettes, to bring it into force before the next bushfire season.

The Protecting Children from Tobacco coalition of 40 non-government child welfare, health, medical, church, parent, teacher, research and social equity organisations has made the call in an email to Attorney-General Robert McClelland in the wake of the recent devastating bushfires.

Following a campaign by fire commissioners, health and science leaders, in September 2008 the government prescribed regulations requiring that cigarettes meet self-extinguishing standards – where 70 percent of each variety must self-extinguish before burning their full length.

The regulations apply to cigarettes manufactured in, or imported into, Australia from March 2010; but the 40 organisations are now asking that the deadline be brought forward to no later than September 2009 – ahead of the next potentially disastrous fire season.

Says Action on Smoking and Health Australia board member Professor Simon Chapman of Sydney University, an initiator of the campaign and co-author of a 2004 report to the government on the issue:

“The tobacco industry has the technology to produce, and is already producing, reduced fire-risk cigarettes in other jurisdictions including Canada and some US states and cities.

“We’re asking for Australian tobacco manufacturers to show the kind of ‘can-do’ attitude other Australians have shown in the wake of the Victorian disaster.

“Clearly the danger of fires is intensifying and we should all do what we can to reduce the risk. Cigarette-caused fires are conservatively estimated to cause an average 14 deaths a year in Australia.

“As well as bushfires, smouldering butts also start many fires in houses and cars – with children often the victims.

“Overseas, early signs are encouraging for the impact of this measure on reducing fires. We feel there’s a very strong argument for getting the reduced fire risk standard into place ahead of the next potentially devastating fire season.”



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