Self-extinguishing Cigarette Draws Support

April-12-04

Shan Ross

Source :  Glasgow Herald

FIRE brigade unions and insurance companies last night promised their support for a campaign to introduce a self-extinguishing cigarette in an attempt to cut Scotland's appalling death rate in fires. Stewart Maxwell, SNP MSP for the West of Scotland, is putting forward a motion to the Scottish Parliament calling for the introduction of fire-safe cigarettes, which have already been introduced in Canada after legislation on the issue was passed there last month. Scots are three times more likely to die in a house fire than those living elsewhere in the UK. Cigarettes are a major factor in nearly four out of every 10 deaths caused by fires.

Figures show that 103 people died in fires in Scotland in 2001 - a significant rise on the 75 deaths which occurred in 2000. The majority of these deaths were in the home. Under the Canadian ruling, local tobacco firms are obliged to manufacture cigarettes that go out before they can smolder long enough to set fire to furniture. Fire-safe cigarettes burn at lower temperature than normal, and are made of a type of paper which quickly stops burning when the smoker is not inhaling.

Mr. Maxwell, who has tabled a member's bill which seeks to ban smoking where food is served, said lives and property would be protected if Scotland followed Canada's example. "Scotland has one of the worst fire death rates in Europe and we need urgent action to cut this terrible statistic. "The introduction of fire-safe cigarettes to Scotland is one of the simplest measures that we could take to dramatically cut the number of fire fatalities. "I am calling upon the Scottish fire brigades and the insurance companies to back my campaign to save lives and protect property by joining me in urging the Scottish Executive to follow Canada's lead

However a spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said last night that the parliament did not have the power to pass such legislation. She said: "Product design regulation is a reserved matter, so it is not open to the Scottish Parliament to legislate in this area. But obviously we do encourage smokers to take care with smoking materials, as nearly four out of 10 fire deaths are caused by careless use of smoking materials."

Ken Ross, secretary of the Fire Brigades Union in Scotland, said the response by the executive to Mr Maxwell's proposals was "disappointing to say the least". "If the executive is serious about trying to prevent fire deaths, it should be taking a somewhat more positive approach to Mr Maxwell's recommendations," he said.

Malcolm Tarling, spokesman for the Association of British Insurers, said his organisation would support legislation aimed at cigarette safety. "As an industry, we would give our backing to proposals which would firstly improve fire safety for everyone. Secondly we would support anything which would also safeguard property," he said.  The Canadian initiative was the result of a five-year campaign by John McKay, a Liberal MP, after he was approached by relatives of a young man who killed himself, his girlfriend and her three-year-old daughter after his cigarette was left smouldering on a sofa. Despite opposition from major tobacco companies, campaigners in Canada hope to extend the legislation to include all imported cigarettes. The state of New York was the first to legislate on fire-safe cigarettes in July 2003.

Office workers who reek of tobacco smoke are putting their reputation and career at risk, research has shown. Only 10% of UK managers polled by consultancy The Aziz Corporation said smelling of cigarette smoke during office hours was acceptable. On a list of pet hates, managers said smelling of smoke was less tolerable than having tattoos or than male employees with long hair. Facial hair and casual dressing were also frowned upon.