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Preventing Fires, Saving Lives
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 April 2006 Spotlight

Preventing Fires, Saving Lives

Home fires caused by cigarettes kill 700 to 900 people in the United States each year. However, the use of fire-safe cigarettes could help prevent thousands of these fires.

In March, a national group of fire service members, consumer and disabled rights advocates, medical and public health practitioners and other related organizations, including ASTM International, came together to form the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes. The purpose of the CFSC, which has been coordinated by the National Fire Protection Association, is to save lives and prevent injuries and damage that result from cigarette-ignited fires.

The idea of fire-safe cigarettes — cigarettes that have a reduced propensity to burn when left unattended — is not a new one. In 1929, U.S. Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers sponsored a bill that led the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) to develop the first fire-safe cigarette. While the road to fire-safe cigarettes becoming commonplace has been long, a standard developed by ASTM International Committee E05 on Fire Standards, E 2187, Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes, has become an important part of a new national effort to mandate the use of fire-safe cigarettes throughout the United States.

Test Method E 2187, which was approved in 2002 and is under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee E05.15 on Furnishings and Contents, predicts a cigarette’s capacity to ignite upholstered furniture and bedding. “A cigarette that goes out more readily in the test is less likely to have enough energy to start a chair or bed burning,” says Richard Gann, a senior research scientist with the Building and Fire Research Laboratory at NIST. Gann led the team that developed the ASTM standard.

NIST scientists researched the interaction of cigarettes with soft furnishings (such as upholstered furniture and beds) with funding provided by the Cigarette Safety Act of 1984 and the Fire Safe Cigarette Act of 1990, both of which were initiated by the late Congressman Joseph Moakley (D-Mass.), who introduced a fire-safe cigarette bill in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1979 after a family of seven in his district was killed in a cigarette-caused fire.

Test Method E 2187 measures the capability of a cigarette, positioned on one of three standard substrates, to generate sufficient heat to continue burning and thus potentially cause ignition of bedding or upholstered furniture. The state of New York adopted E 2187 as the basis for the world’s first law requiring less fire-prone cigarettes in January 2003. Vermont, California and Canada all passed similar laws and fire-safe cigarette legislation is pending in at least 11 other states.

The CFSC is calling on cigarette manufacturers to produce and market cigarettes that adhere to an established cigarette fire safety performance standard that is based on ASTM E 2187. In addition, the CFSC is encouraging states to pass legislation mandating fire-safe cigarettes.

In addition to ASTM International, the following organizations make up the CFSC, which has been coordinated by the NFPA:

• American Burn Association;
• American Fire Sprinkler Association;
• AMERIND Risk Management Corporation;
• Center for Campus Fire Safety;
• Home Safety Council;
• International Association of Arson Investigators;
• International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters;
• International Association of Fire Chiefs;
• International Association of Fire Fighters;
• International Fire Marshals Association;
• Metropolitan Fire Chiefs;
• National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians;
• National Association of Hispanic Firefighters;
• National Association of State Fire Marshals;
• National Fallen Firefighters Foundation;
• National Fire Protection Association;
• National Volunteer Fire Council;
• Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors;
• Safe Kids Worldwide; and
• Trauma Foundation.

For more information on CFSC, go to or contact Lorraine Carli, NFPA (phone: 617/984-7276).

ASTM International standards are important and useful in countless ways, with many of them having a clear and direct influence on our daily lives. Among these standards, Test Method E 2187 is clearly one of the lifesavers.

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