Fire safety of cigarettes improved in Finland
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and Ministry of the Interior and Valvira inform
The most common reason for fires with fatal consequences is in Finland smoking and careless handling of fire in connection with it. The number of fires and deaths from fires is expected to be reduced considerably when the present cigarettes will be replaced by self-extinguishing cigarettes. The new amendments to the tobacco legislation regarding the fire safety of cigarettes enter into force on 1 April 2010.
In the future the burning behaviour of cigarettes must meet adequate fire safety requirements defined in more detail by decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The cigarettes used at present have usually been designed to burn to the end or down to the filter. When the composition of cigarettes is changed a cigarette will not continue burning when left unattended.
According to the tobacco legislation the burning behaviour of cigarettes must be tested in accordance with the US ASTM Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes or the Australian AS Standard. It is required that at most 25 per cent of a batch of 40 cigarettes being tested will burn to the end. The manufacturer or importer of cigarettes must be able to prove that the cigarettes meet the defined fire safety requirements.
Finland is the first country in Europe to prescribe fire safety requirements for cigarettes. Comparable requirements have been laid down in Canada, in almost all the States of the USA and in Australia. A draft for an international standard (ISO Standard) has been circulated for comments, and once the standard will be ready for use the future EU requirements will be based on it.
The aim is to prevent fire-related deaths
Annually, 25-35 people die from fires ignited by cigarettes in Finland. In 2007-2008 smoking caused a total of 56 fire-related deaths and 34 serious injuries. In most cases it was question of smoking in bed or on a sofa. The victim of a fire ignited by a burning cigarette is often under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The victim is also often an older person or a person with physical disability.
According to the statistics of the fire rescue service, about 6 per cent of all fires in Finland are estimated to have originated from a burning cigarette or other tobacco product. This means about 900 fires a year. The immediate damages to property are estimated at EUR 6 million per year. Approximately 40 per cent of the fires ignited by cigarettes are wildfires, i.e. 10 per cent of all wildfires.Further information
Johanna Haapala-Mrena, Lawyer, National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira), tel. (09) 7729 2463
Hannu Olamo, Director, Ministry of the Interior, tel. 071 87 88430
Reeta Siukola, Senior Officer, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. (09) 160 73231