A coalition of consumer defence, public health and anti-tobacco groups has kicked off a campaign to urge the EU to impose a standard for cigarettes that go out when not being puffed by the smoker. The member states are discussing the issue in the Management Committee set up under the General Product Safety Directive (2001/95/EC). On 15 November last, a number of member states pointed out the advantages of this technology, which is widely used in the United States.
Known as RIP' (for reduced ignition propensity'), the technology is based on a "special type of paper [ ] that reduces the cigarette's propensity to burn," explains Deborah Arnott, Director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), which is steering the campaign. She added that tobacco companies have had access to this technology for more than 20 years.
The United Kingdom in particular is pressing for the introduction of a common standard under the directive. A number of member states appear to support such a measure; others are opposed or have not yet adopted a clear stance. They have consequently been invited by the Commission to do so in writing before the next meeting in February.
"A large number of fires could be prevented if these cigarettes were introduced in Europe, including house fires," notes Dave Beverley of the British Fire Brigades Union. Cigarettes are probably the cause of one third of deaths and most injuries in fires in the majority of the member states, explains the coalition. The figures are better known in the United States, where cigarettes are the principal source of house fires, killing 700 to 900 people a year.
The campaign has the backing of MEP Arlene McCarthy (PES, UK), Chair of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee. She maintains that the use of these standards would be a "sensible and effective way to reduce the risk of house fires," adding that "this simple measure would save lives and prevent a great deal of suffering throughout the EU". The coalition is also calling for a limit on...