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Tobacco Industry Says It Supports Study To Reduce Cigarette Fire Hazard

September 4, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The tobacco industry has been ″very supportive″ of a study to find ways to reduce the fire hazard of cigarettes, but believes more work must be done before any changes are implemented, a Tobacco Institute spokeswoman said Friday.

″We’re real hopeful that out of this process, something positive will come,″ spokeswoman Brennan Moran said after reviewing quickly a report by the National Bureau of Standards that concluded it is possible to make cigarettes which reduce the danger of deadly fires caused by smoldering tobacco products.

″We should proceed from here,″ she said. ″Now is the time that we should take it out of the laboratory and test some of these things.″

Among the aspects that need to be tested are whether the various changes proposed actually inhibit the ignition of fires and whether consumers will accept the changes, she said.

Ms. Moran noted that industry scientists were active participants in the technical study group that conducted the experiments for the National Burea of Standards report. She said the industry is ″very supportive″ of the effort.

Researchers from the Technical Study Group on Cigarette and Little Cigar Fire Safety ″found that thinner cigarettes with less tobacco and less porous paper - which cuts air circulation in the cigarette - can significantly reduce the chance of igniting soft furnishings,″ said Dr. Richard Gann, who heads the Bureau of Standards Fire Measurement and Research Division.

The researchers also concluded that filter-tipped cigarettes were less likely to start fires than plain-ended ones. The type of tobacco in the cigarette makes no difference, they found.

The study group has scheduled a meeting for Sept. 10-11 to hear presentations on fire safety.

Fires caused by cigarettes accidentally dropped on upholstered furniture are blamed for as many as 1,600 deaths, 7,000 serious injuries and an estimated $390 million in property damage annually in the United States, according to the standards bureau.

The Upholstered Furniture Action Council, representing industry, has been researching more fire-resistant fabric coverings, but the new Bureau of Standards report concludes that until such furniture becomes commonplace, losses could be reduced by improving cigarette safety.

A bureau economist, Rosalie Ruegg, noted that the cigarette modifications suggested may affect the economics of cigarette production. Five changes were studied from an economic viewpoint - decreased cigarette circumference, decreased tobacco density, chemical additives, increased paper weight and decreased paper porosity.

The first two would decrease the price to manufacturers and would lower the demand for tobacco farming, she said, adding that none of the five changes would increase tobacco farming.

For example, she said, decreasing cigarette circumference could lower production costs by about 3 percent, largely because less tobacco would be used. At the same time, annual revenues from tobacco farming would drop by about 15 percent, resulting in a likely 4 percent reduction in tobacco industry jobs.

Adding chemicals or increasing the weight of paper would increase the price of production, while decreasing paper porosity was assumed to leave the production price unchanged, she said.

In addition, if the modifications changed a cigarette’s appearance, price or taste, consumers and manufacturers could be affected by changes in consumption, she said.

″We weren’t able to arrive at any kind of certainty as to what the consumer response would be,″ Ms. Ruegg said. I the cigarettes had less tobacco, then some people might find them less desirable and buy fewer, while others, seeking the same amount of tobacco they were accustomed to, might buy more, she said.

The industry gave the study group 41 differing experimental cigarettes of varying designs, tobacco content and including some which included fire retardant chemicals. The group investigated the fire-related qualities of these products.

The study was launched following the passage of the 1984 Cigarette Safety Act, which set up an interagency committee including officials of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Fire Administrator.

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