Fire-safe cigarettes

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Fire-Safe Cigarettes are cigarettes that self-extinguish when left burning unattended.

Commercially-produced cigarettes do not self-extinguish because cigarette paper is impregnated with sodium citrate, a burn accelerant that keeps lit cigarettes burning when left sitting in an ashtray. This design feature prevents smokers from having to constantly re-light their cigarettes, and also increases cigarette consumption.

It has also created a major global fire hazard. Lit tobacco products (cigarettes, pipes, cigars) are the number one cause of fatal fires in the United States and every other country where fire deaths can be analyzed by cause.[1][2]

Tobacco company opposition to fire-safe cigarette laws

Tobacco companies have fought for decades to prevent laws mandating fire-safe cigarettes, also called "reduced ignition propensity" (RIP) cigarettes. In the early 1980s, the Tobacco Institute carried out an internal "Fire Service Program" designed to reduce calls by firefighters nationwide for laws mandating reduced ignition propensity cigarettes. The Tobacco Instituted doled out generous grants for equipment and "public education" to cash-strapped fire companies and fire service organizations around the U.S, effectively neutralizing calls from these organizations for fire-safe cigarette legislation. The program was so successful that in the transcript of a 1984 Philip Morris Corporate Affairs World Conference cites the Institute's Fire Service Program as a model of how to strategically neutralize credible opponents on a crucial issue. The speaker boasts about what was arguably at that point the Institute's greatest "success story," how it befriended and manipulated one of its most credible and powerful potential enemies -- the fire-response community -- and turned them into an ally who would, remarkably and at the most crucial times, support the industry's interests over the public interest on the topic of self-extinguishing cigarettes:

Example. The self-extinguishing cigarette. Who would normally be involved in the self-extinguishing cigarette on the other side of the fence? Probably the fire-fighting community. As you know in the United States, we have put a huge amount of time into helping all the organized groups of professional and volunteer fire-fighters. They get such help from us that is monumental. And then when we need them to stand up and say, not cigarettes that cause fire in 99.9 percent of the cases, we get their cooperation. But that's because we have cultivated them and helped them achieve some of their goals and we have seen that they are a potential enemy that has real credibility. That's the greatest credibility, your potential enemy. We had turned them around and made allies, third party defenders for ourselves.[3]


  1. Smoking Material-related Fires, National Fire Protection Association Fact Sheet, updated August, 2007
  2. The Smoking-Material Fire Problem, John R. Hall, Jr., Fire Analysis and Research Division, National Fire Protection Association, August 2006
  3. Workshop - Dealing with the Issues Indirectly: Constituencies, Philip Morris Incorporated 840000 Corporate Affairs World Conference, Rye Brook, New York, September 13, 1984. Transcript.

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