Fire Safe Cigarettes

November-25-02

John McKay M.P.

Source :  John McKay M.P.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-260, important legislation that has to do with the fire safety of cigarettes, the flammability standards of cigarettes.

In February 1916 a fire destroyed our Parliament. The only building that survived was the Library and some charred wings of the north and west buildings. It was a disaster for the Canadian people and for those who worked in Parliament.

There was no official cause for the Parliament of Canada burning down but it was widely believed that the fire was caused by careless smoking. The fire was caused by a cigarette that set a piece of furniture on fire. The fire quickly spread throughout this institution.

Every year we hear about horrific fires throughout our country where there is a loss of life, injury and enormous property damage, and frequently they are attributed to careless smoking. Someone falls asleep and leaves a cigarette unattended and the house burns down with the children in it. It is virtually impossible to turn on the evening news without a reference to some fire that has visited some horrible tragedy on some relatively innocent family.

Is it really careless smoking? Cigarette companies have known for years how to eliminate death and injury by changing the density of tobacco and making modifications to the paper. They do not do it simply because there is no requirement in Canada to force tobacco companies to make fire safe cigarettes.

This might seem like a contradiction in terms, a fire safe cigarette, but let me explain. Changing the density of the tobacco and the quality of the paper will not impair the enjoyment of the cigarette. The lighting and the smoking of the cigarette is not changed. What is changed is the burn if the cigarette is not puffed. In other words, the person would have to continue to puff the cigarette for it to stay alive, otherwise it will simply extinguish on its own. If a person abandons the cigarette for a period of time it will simply extinguish.

If a regular cigarette is abandoned on an ashtray, when a person comes back it is nothing but ashes. If a fire safe cigarette is abandoned on an ashtray, when a person comes back there will still be a butt left that can be relit and smoked.

As we can readily imagine, if a cigarette is abandoned on a piece of furniture there may well be a disastrous situation on our hands when we return. The situation may be even more disastrous situation if we were to fall asleep. We may end up waking to find the furniture on fire. Had the person been smoking a fire safe cigarette, the cigarette would have extinguished itself and no harm would have been done.

This all seems fairly simple; fire safe cigarettes versus ones that are hazards to people, their property and the environment. It looks like a good idea. It seems like a good idea. What is the problem?