Fire safe cigarette

Fire safe cigarettes, abbreviated "FSC", also known as lower ignition propensity (LIP), reduced fire risk (RFR), self-extinguishing, fire-safe or reduced ignition propensity (RIP) cigarettes, are cigarettes that are designed to extinguish more quickly than standard cigarettes if ignored, with the intention of preventing accidental fires. In the United States, "FSC" above the barcode signifies that the cigarettes sold are fire standards compliant (FSC).

Fire safe cigarettes are produced by adding six bands of fire retardant to the cigarette paper during manufacture in order to slow the burn rate at the bands. Because this process simply decreases the burn rate and does not prevent unattended cigarettes from igniting nearby materials or tinder, the term "fire-safe" has been called a misnomer which could lead to a false sense of security.

The bands may be made from many materials, including cellulose, other polymers or materials such as thicker bands of paper. Many patents have been registered for potential materials, including EVA polymer (ethylene vinyl acetate). When burned, the polymer of EVA becomes unstable, and the health risks of inhalation are not known. EVA and PVA (polyvinyl acetate) polymer adhesives have been used by the tobacco industry for many years, and are the industry standards. A similar quantity of PVA polymer is required to glue the paper seam in a fire safe cigarette as in a standard cigarette.

EVA polymer must not be conflated with the EVA monomer, which is a reactive species with some toxic properties.

Regional implementation

United States

As of January 1, 2010, the fire-safe cigarette law was in effect in 43 states. It has been signed into law and became effective in all states and the District of Columbia in 2012.[1] State laws generally contain provisions permitting the sale of non-FSCs that have been tax-stamped by wholesalers and retailers in the state prior to the effective date of the state’s FSC law. The laws require cigarettes to exhibit a greater likelihood of self-extinguishing using a prescribed laboratory test method, E2187, developed by ASTM International (formerly, the American Society for Testing & Materials). The E2187 standard is cited in U.S. state legislation and is the basis for the fire-safe cigarette law in effect in Canada. It is being considered for legislation in other countries.[2]


In 1929, a cigarette-ignited fire in Lowell, Massachusetts, caught the attention of U.S. Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers (D-MA); she called for the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) to develop technology for "self-snubbing" cigarettes. The Boston Herald American covered the story on 31 March 1932, noting that after three years of research the NBS had developed a “self-snubbing” cigarette and had suggested that cigarette manufacturers “take up the idea.” None did.[3]

In 1973 the United States Congress established the Consumer Product Safety Commission[4] (CPSC) to protect the public from hazardous products. Congress excluded tobacco products from its jurisdiction while assigning it responsibility for flammable fabrics.[5] The CPSC regulated the flammability of mattresses[5] and worked with furniture manufacturers to establish voluntary flammability standards[6] for upholstered furniture, although more recently those standards have come to be considered mandatory.[5]

In 1978 Andrew McGuire, a burn survivor, activist and winner of a 1985 MacArthur Fellowship for his work on the flammability of children's sleepwear, started a grassroots campaign to prevent house fire deaths by changing the cigarette.[7] McGuire secured funding for an investigation into cigarettes and fires which became Cigarettes and Sofas: How the Tobacco Lobby Keeps the Home Fires Burning. Massachusetts congressman Joe Moakley introduced federal FSC legislation in the autumn of 1979 after a cigarette fire in his district killed a family of seven; California senator Alan Cranston authored a matching Senate bill.

The US Tobacco Institute financed a fire prevention education program in parallel with the campaign Fighting Fire with Firemen.[8][9][10]

In 1984 the Cigarette Safety Act funded a three-year study under the auspices of the CPSC. This reported to US Congress in 1987 that it was technically feasible and maybe commercially feasible to make a cigarette that was less likely to start fires.[11] Legislative activity continued in the states while the federal government, cigarette companies and advocates discussed next steps. McGuire and colleagues continued to inform advocates about cigarette fires and prevention strategies, legislation and liability.[7][12][13][14]

A compromise led to the US Fire Safe Cigarette Act of 1990. The resulting study, while contentious, laid the groundwork for a flammability test method for cigarettes.[15] Federal efforts to implement a standard stalled, as the Reagan and Bush administrations preferred free markets to regulation. The grassroots campaign focused on state efforts. McGuire continued to publish progress reports.[16][17][18]

In 2000, New York passed the first state law requiring the introduction of cigarettes that have a lower likelihood of starting a fire, with flammability evaluated by the NIST test. By spring 2006 four more states had passed laws modeled on New York's: Vermont, New Hampshire, California, and Illinois. McGuire published a campaign update.[19] The National Fire Protection Association[20] decided to fund the Fire Safe Cigarette Coalition to accelerate this grassroots movement.

Since 1982, fifteen lawsuits have been filed regarding cigarette-ignited fire deaths and injuries. The first successful lawsuit resulted in a settlement for a toddler severely burned in a car fire allegedly caused by a cigarette.[21]

In November 2008, Citizens Against Fire-Safe Cigarettes started an online petition, citing many of the known risks of these cigarettes and advocating individual responsibility in preference to federal regulation.


On October 1, 2005, Canada became the first country to implement a nationwide cigarette fire safety standard. The law requires that all cigarettes manufactured in or imported into Canada must burn their full length no more than 25% of the time when tested using ASTM International method E2187-04: Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes. The law is based on the New York State legislation. Each year in Canada, fires started by smokers' materials kill approximately 70 people and cause 300 injuries, according to a study conducted by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.[22]


On November 30, 2007, 27 EU states approved a European Commission proposal which would require the tobacco industry to use fire-retardant paper in all cigarettes. The European Committee for Standardization has said that these types of products would be universally available.[23] In November 2010, the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) Committee of the European Commission agreed the standard and reached the consensus that enforcement of the standard (including at the point of sale to consumers) should start “about 12 months from its publication by CEN” – this would be around 17 November 2011. This start date for enforcement will be marked by the publication of reference to the standard in the Official Journal of the European Union. [24]

In the UK a proposal to ban the "old style" cigarettes in order to implement a fire-safe alternative was dropped as it will be encompassed within the EU directive.[25]

West of Scotland MSP Stewart Maxwell has been a long-time advocate of ‘fire-safer cigarettes’ and has called for Scotland to take a lead in developing a European standard. Maxwell has consistently called on the Scottish Government to use its influence to pressure the UK Government to ensure the introduction of ‘fire safer cigarettes’ as soon as possible.[26]


In Australia, around 14 people are claimed to die annually from cigarette related fires.[27] The government has accepted the proposal for FSCs and is in the process of implementing regulations.[28] Cigarette companies were required to change their products to ensure that cigarettes self-extinguish more readily before the regulations came into effect in March 2010.[29]

Responses from tobacco companies

In 2000 Philip Morris introduced the 'fire-safe' Merit cigarette, with two thicker paper bands to slow the burning. Later that year, the company received hundreds of complaints alleging that long, partly burned tobacco was falling off the tips of lit Merit cigarettes, burning skin and flammable items. An in-house scientist (Michael Lee Watkins) analyzed the data and concluded Merit to actually be a greater fire risk than conventional cigarettes. In early 2002 Watkins was fired, and Merit continued to be marketed. For concealing information about the fire hazard, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Philip Morris.[30][31] In October 2007, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) said that by the end of 2009 it would only be selling FSCs in the United States.[32]

Response from consumers

Some consumers in the United States claim they have found a noticeable difference in the taste of FSC cigarettes from non-FSC cigarettes, comparing it to a copper or metallic taste. Other symptoms reported include an itchy rash (allergic reaction), severe headache, heart problems, nerve damage, serious negative mental effects, circulation issues, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, and nose bleeds. Many of these symptoms are also closely associated with carbon monoxide (CO) toxicity. When organic matter is burned with insufficient oxygen, carbon monoxide is produced. FSC cigarettes are designed to self-extinguish by reducing the oxygen supply to the burning tobacco. The health risks associated with increased long-term CO exposure range from mild to severe, and are well documented. Currently there are no studies linking FSC cigarettes to increased CO levels. There has been a rise in people rolling their own cigarettes instead of continuing to smoke FSC cigarettes, and there have also been petitions regarding FSC cigarettes. One current petition has been signed by over 50,000 people that attest to the negatives of FSC cigarettes.

Currently there are no findings published on the long term health effects on humans of inhaling EVA co-polymers. Results of tests conducted on rodents show the risks associated with 'ethylene vinyl acetate copolymer emulsion-based adhesive' include triggering the cellular proliferation necessary for tumor development.[33]


  2. Wilhelm, Richard (May 2008). "Where There's Smoke There Doesn't Have to Be Fire". Retrieved 21 January 2010.
  5. 1 2 3 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
  7. 1 2 McLoughlin E. The Cigarette Safety Act. Journal of Public Health Policy. 1982;3(2):226-228
  8. Fortune, October 3, 1983
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  10. Barbeau EM, Gelder G, Ahmed S et al. From strange bedfellows to natural allies: the shifting allegiance of fire service organizations in the push for federal FSC legislation. Tobacco Control 2005; 14:338-345
  11. Technical Study Group on Cigarette and Little Cigar Fire Safety. Toward a Less Fire-Prone Cigarette. Washington, DC: Consumer product Safety Commission, 1987
  12. Grannis AB. The New York Cigarette Fire Safety Act. New York State Journal of Medicine. 1983;839130:1299
  13. DeFrancesco S, Teret S, McGuire A. Liability for Cigarette-related Fire Death and Injury. Trial Lawyer’s Quarterly. 1986; 17(4):9-15
  14. McGuire A. Fires, Cigarettes and Advocacy. Law, Medicine and Health Care. 1989: 17(1):73-77
  15. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Overview: Practicability of Developing a Performance Standard to Reduce Cigarette Ignition Propensity. August 1993
  16. McGuire A. "The Case of the Fire Safe Cigarette: the Synergism Between State and Federal Legislation," in Bergman A.B. (ed): Political Approaches to Injury Control at the State Level. University of Washington Press, Seattle/London, 1992, pp.79-87
  17. McGuire, A., Daynard, R., "When Cigarettes Start Fires: Industry Liability," Trial Magazine, Vol. 28, No.11, Nov 1992, pp. 44-49
  18. McGuire, A., “How the Tobacco Industry Continues to Keep the Home Fires Burning,” Commentary, Tobacco Control. 1999; 8:67-69
  19. McGuire, A., “To Burn or Not to Burn: An Advocate’s Report from the Field,” Injury Prevention, 2005; 11:264-266
  25. Campbell, Denis (2007-05-27). "New 'fire-safe' cigarettes will put themselves out". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  30. O'Connell, Vanessa (23 April 2004). "U.S. Suit Alleges Philip Morris Hid Cigarette-Fire Risk". The Wall Street Journal.
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