Fire Safe Cigarettes - Canada a leader in the International Community

March-18-07

Hon. John McKay M.P.

Source :  Hon. John McKay M.P.

Two years have now passed since my Private Memberís Bill C-260 achieved Royal Assent, and encouraged Health Canada to meet fire ignition standards for all Canadian cigarettes. Canada set a worldwide precedent by becoming the first country to put national standards in place for by adopting the Reduced Ignition Propensity regulations under the Tobacco Act. According to these regulations, as of October 1st, 2005, all cigarettes sold in Canada were required to meet regulated ignition propensity standards (RIPs). This means that manufacturers are now required by law to comply with national standards for cigarette ignition rates and provide evidence of compliance to the Minister of Health. Enforced compliance with the new standards is saving lives by ensuring that Canadian cigarettes self-extinguish before burning their entire length when unused, thereby reducing the risk of igniting a fire. Bill C-260 played a key role to ensure that safer cigarettes are being sold in Canada.

RIP cigarettes find their home within the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy (FTCS), a multi-faceted framework for tobacco control in Canada. One of the goals of the FTCS is to reduce harm to the consumer at a variety of levels; Bill C-260 helped doing that by ensuring that cigarettes in Canada are fire-safe. Prior to the implementation of the regulations, it is estimated that cigarettes were responsible for 2085 fires, 70 deaths and $28.1 million in property damage. Health Canada suggests that RIP cigarettes will reduce fire-loss damages by 34-68%. It is clear that Canadians will directly benefit from this legislation.

Numerous advocacy groups have supported the fire safe cigarette initiative along the way. The Non-Smokerís Rights Association, the Canadian Cancer Society, fire services, and burn centers across the country have all lent their support. Similar legislation is now being introduced in Taiwan, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Great Britain and Poland, amongst others. The standards adopted in Canada are the same as those in place in New York, as are the RIP cigarette testing processes. As FranÁois Damphousse, Director of the Quebec Office of Non Smokerís Rights Association (Quebec) noted, fire safety regulations for cigarettes are gaining momentum around the world. Damphousse added that, "The impact of John's Bill has been fantastic, because it forced Parliament to look at the issue, and it forced Health Canada to implement specific regulations for cigarettes under the Hazardous Products Act."

The number of smokers in Canada has decreased over the last seven years, from 24% of the population in 2000 to 18% in 2006. Risky behavior amongst those who smoke, however, has remained high. 10% of smokers admit to having fallen asleep with a lit cigarette in the last year, and 30% recall leaving a burning cigarette in an ashtray. RIP cigarettes together with increased smoker vigilance are helping to reduce the number of cigarette initiated fires.

The impact of the new regulations have yet to be fully measured, but anecdotal evidence suggests that with the passing of Bill C-260, the number of cigarette related fires resulting in property damage, injury or death are noticeably down. FranÁois Damphousse is pleased with the technology and continues to assist in promoting it internationally. Canadians and others are directly benefiting from this legislation and the goal of harm reduction is being achieved.

Cigarettes can never be made entirely fire-safe, but their ignition propensity can be reduced. As fire-safe regulations are introduced and enforced, it is important that the new standard not be undermined by the smuggling of illegal cigarettes. Health Canada will be monitoring the marketplace to ensure regulation implementation and to take appropriate action on violations. Officials intend to produce new statistics from this current year that will more accurately track the effects of the new RIP cigarettes.

Fire-safe cigarettes make sense, and will benefit Canadians both now and in the future. I am delighted to note the difference they have already made. I want to thank the Non-Smokerís Rights Association, Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Fire Chief Association and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada for their support and expertise through out the debating of this bill. I would also like to thank my colleagues in the House of Commons and in the Senate who voted in favour of Bill C-260. In particular, I wish to thank Dr. Yves Morin who championed the bill in the Senate. Canada is safer because of your work.