Non-Smokers' Rights Association - Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada

News Releases

March 31, 2004

Fire-safe cigarettes mandatory by the end of the year

 Ottawa - The Non-Smokers' Rights Association and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada congratulate Parliament on the passage yesterday evening of legislation that will reduce the number of cigarette-caused fires in Canada. Bill C-260, An Act to amend the Hazardous Products Act (fire-safe cigarettes), will make it mandatory for all tobacco manufacturers to sell reduced ignition propensity (RIP) cigarettes by the end of this year.

 The health groups praised two parliamentarians for their efforts in securing passage of this legislation. John McKay, MP for Scarborough East, introduced the legislation in the House of Commons in 2000, and championed its passage for almost three years.  Senator Yves Morin sponsored the legislation in the Senate, and negotiated its quick passage through the upper house against the ticking clock of a widely-expected election call. “The leadership of these two publicly-spirited parliamentarians should be widely acknowledged,” said Francois Damphousse, Quebec office Director of the Non-Smokers' Rights Association.

 "Cigarette-caused fires are a major threat to public health", said Cynthia Callard, Executive Director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. Cigarettes are the leading cause of fire-related deaths in Canada. According to data from the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, 356 people were killed and a further 1,615 were injured in such fires between 1995 and 1999 (the latest data available). These fires have also caused more than $200 million worth of property damage.

 " For years, the tobacco industry has tried to blame its customers for these fires, without looking at its own responsibility to make a safer product", said Toronto lawyer, Douglas Lennox.. "Cigarette fires kill smokers and non-smokers alike, including children, the elderly, firefighters and anyone caught in the path of such a blaze.  . Although measures have been taken in the past to prevent these fires, including public education and the development of fire-resistant materials, these measures have never addressed the source of the problem itself, the cigarette. Bill C-260 will change all that."

 "This is the first time in Canada that a standard will apply to how cigarettes are made. However, New York State already has a regulation requiring reduced ignition propensity (RIP) cigarettes," said François Damphousse. "After a disaster that killed three firefighters in Brooklyn, the State of New York adopted a precedent for this kind of legislation in 2000. According to recently released regulations, all cigarettes sold in the state will have to comply to a specific RIP standard as of June 30, 2004."

 "However, this RIP standard does not completely eliminate the risk for cigarettes to cause fires, but it will reduce the risk significantly," explained Neil Collishaw, Research Director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. "Health Canada, which is planning to use the same testing protocol and RIP standard as New York State, has tested 50 cigarette brands sold on the Canadian market. All of these brands, except one, More Menthol, have failed the test (More cigarettes are thinner and therefore do not generate as much heat). This is caused mostly because cigarettes are designed to continue to burn even though smokers are not actively puffing on them. All Canadian manufacturers will need to modify their products so they can meet this standard."

 "The Canadian tobacco industry has been opposing this initiative," commented François Damphousse. "It claims that RIP cigarettes might be more toxic for smokers. It also argues that smokers find these cigarettes less acceptable. However, the industry's own confidential research documents show otherwise. These cigarettes are not more toxic and smokers found them as acceptable as regular cigarettes."

To protect the public, the Hazardous Products Act and the Food and Drugs Act impose manufacturing standards on a long list of consumer goods. Why should cigarettes be excluded from that list, especially if the technology is available to modify cigarettes to make them less prone to cause fires? This technology has been known since the 1980s. Tragically, many innocent victims have died since in cigarette-caused fires because of the failure of governments to act. It took well over a decade before somebody finally showed sufficient leadership to prevent these tragedies. Canadians should commend Mr. John McKay, Dr. Yves Morin and Parliament for this significant contribution to public health.

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François Damphousse
Director, Quebec office
Non-Smokers' Rights Association
(613) 230-4211, Mobile phone: (514) 237-7626

Cynthia Callard
Executive Director
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada
(613) 233-4878, Mobile phone: (613) 850-5594

Douglas Lennox
Klein Lyons
Barristers &  Solicitors
(416) 506-1944

Neil Collishaw
Research Director
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada
(613) 233-4878, Mobile phone: (613) 297-3590