EU consumer chief wants to introduce ‘fire-safe’ cigarettes

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s consumer chief aims to prevent thousands of fire-related deaths and injuries each year by making all cigarettes sold in EU countries self-extinguishing, European Commission officials said. The «fire-safe» cigarettes stop burning automatically after a few seconds if not puffed, due to small gaps in the cigarette paper which cuts the circulation of oxygen. Officials at the EU executive said EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva would bring forward proposals later this year to make the self-extinguishing cigarettes mandatory throughout the 27-nation bloc. «Data from just 14 member states show that over 2,000 deaths a year are caused by cigarette-related fires, with thousands more people injured and tens of millions of euros’ worth of damage caused,» a Commission official told Reuters. «There have already been discussions with the various stakeholders such as the fire-safety authorities, the tobacco industry and consumer groups. There is general support across the board.» Commission officials are developing an EU-wide standard for the cigarettes, similar to one in the United States and Canada. «Canada introduced legislation in 2005 and a number of US states have followed suit, including New York, New Jersey and California, while Australia intends to also bring in laws for fire-safe cigarettes,» another Commission official said. «So, it would be more sensible and easier for industry if we draw up a common standard to be used across the globe.» The officials said research showed the cost of the new regulations in North America did not affect the overall cost of cigarettes. «The cost is around 0.01 to 0.02 euro cents per packet,» a Commission official said. The officials said the tobacco industry told them it would back the plan, if it was given time to adapt to the new legislation.

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