The release of a new Australian Standard could pave the way for the introduction of self-extinguishing cigarettes into Australia.
The new Standard, announced by Standards Australia today, tests how likely cigarettes are to self-extinguish when left unattended.
The VicHealth Centre for Tobacco Control (VCTC) has applauded the release of the testing standard saying a national standard to mandate reduced fire risk cigarettes could result in less lives and property being lost to cigarette-related fires.
Director of Law and Regulation at the VCTC, Mr Jonathan Liberman, said the impact and cost to the community of these preventable fires is considerable.
"It's important that we take advantage of available technology to reduce the number of fires started by cigarettes and thereby reduce the risk to life and property," he said.
Mr Liberman said that, given the amount of harm they cause, it is unacceptable that the contents and design of cigarettes remain unregulated.
"Tobacco companies have long possessed the technology to produce cigarettes with a reduced fire risk but have so far failed to do so in Australia," says Mr Liberman.
"The adoption of mandatory standards to regulate manufacture, importation and sale of self extinguishing cigarettes, would provide tremendous benefits to the public and to fire-fighters."
"Standards for reduced fire risk cigarettes have already been introduced in New York, Illinois, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, California and Canada."
"It is now time for the Australian government to introduce laws requiring the tobacco industry to meet reduced fire risk standards as has already been done in other jurisdictions."
A national review conducted by the Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC) in the eight years between 1996/97 and 2003/04, found that cigarettes cause 12 fires a day.
The review also linked cigarettes to fires that caused 48 of the 418 fire related deaths across Australia during this period.
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