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Test Method Measures Ignition Strength of Cigarettes

In December 2002, ASTM International approved E 2187, Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes, which predicts a cigarette’s capacity to ignite upholstered furniture and bedding. E 2187 is based on the work of a team led by Richard Gann, Ph.D., a senior research scientist with the Building and Fire Research Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Gaithersburg, Md. “A cigarette that goes out more readily in the test is less likely to have enough energy to start a chair or bed burning,” he says.

Gann and Thomas Ohlemiller, Emil Braun, Keith Eberhardt, Randall Lawson, and John Krasny at the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) researched the interaction of cigarettes with soft furnishings (upholstered furniture and beds) under the Cigarette Safety Act of 1984 and the Fire Safe Cigarette Act of 1990. “This understanding of the physics of ignition enabled the NBS team to develop two test methods for the ignition strength of cigarettes,” says Gann.

“The research was initiated by the late Congressman Joseph Moakley (D-MA), who sponsored the two aforementioned Congressional Acts,” says Gann. “While the cigarette industry participated in the committee work under the two Acts, they had resisted the passage of a product standard. The situation changed when Philip Morris developed a product that was both commercially acceptable and of reduced ignition strength.”

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. In January, the State of New York adopted E 2187 as the basis for the world’s first law requiring less fire-prone cigarettes, Gann says. It’s milestone legislation, says Thomas Fritz, the chairman of ASTM Committee E05 on Fire Standards who approved the method with other committee members.

“Carelessly dropped cigarettes are the largest single cause of fire deaths in the United States,” says Gann, an E05 member. “Each year, cigarette-initiated fires claim 800 lives, cause another 2,000 serious injuries, and result in a total cost to the Nation in excess of $4 billion.”

ASTM Subcommittee E05.15 on Furnishings and Contents will maintain the standard. Gann expects its application to have a positive impact. “The prime beneficiary of this standard will be the U.S. public,” he says. Committee E05 presented the Simon Ingberg Award to the NIST team in December 2002 for their extensive research which supports E 2187.

For further technical information, contact Gann (phone: 301/975-6866). Committee E05 meets June 15-18 in Denver, Colo. For membership or meeting details, contact Tom O’Toole, manager, Technical Committee Operations, ASTM International (phone: 610/832-9739). //

Copyright 2003, ASTM