Australia — Conventional cigarettes could be outlawed by this time next year and replaced by self-extinguishing cigarettes.
State and territory emergency services ministers meeting in Canberra yesterday supported moves to amend the Trade Practices Act and force tobacco companies to make the change.
It is estimated that between 60 and 70 Australians die each year in domestic fires caused by smouldering cigarettes.
Anecdotal evidence suggests further deaths and millions of dollars of property damage are caused by bushfires ignited by butts thrown from cars.
NSW Emergency Services Minister Nathan Rees said his state had pushed the issue since 2005, but progress had been delayed by a regulatory impact study initiated by the former Howard government.
“While some of the tobacco companies may not be happy with the tightness of this timetable, well frankly, that’s too bad,” Mr Rees said.
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland, who chaired yesterday’s meeting, said tobacco companies were on notice to meet the early 2009 deadline self-extinguishing cigarettes had been introduced overseas and manufacturing techniques would be available to domestic producers.
A spokesman for British American Tobacco (BAT) said the company supported the introduction of reduced-fire-risk cigarettes but said the industry would require sufficient notice of the standard it would have to meet.
“For adequate implementation we would need 12 to 18 months from the time of the regulation,” BAT spokesman Bede Fennel said.
He cautioned that the new cigarettes would not be foolproof. “It is important that smokers are aware the cigarettes produced to meet the proposed reduced-fire-risk standard are not fire safe, and all lit cigarettes should be carefully disposed of,” he said.