The following statement was prepared by the Subcommittee on Injury Prevention and Control of the ACS Committee on Trauma and approved by the Board of Regents at its October 2005 meeting.
Recognizing that cigarette smoking is a major hazard, the American College of Surgeons supports aggressive efforts to educate the public on the dangers of using tobacco products and the subsequent high costs of this serious but preventable problem. The College also recognizes, however, that this educational effort remains a difficult challenge that may never be totally resolved. Because fires caused by cigarettes can cause serious burn injuries and deaths, the American College of Surgeons supports efforts and legislation aimed at preventing burn injuries associated with cigarettes.
- Cigarettes are the leading cause of fatal fires in the U.S. and are responsible for one-fourth of all deaths caused by fires.
- Annually, cigarette fires kill approximately 1,000 people and injure 3,000 more.
- Fires caused by cigarettes cost the nation over $6 billion dollars each year.
- Unlike deaths caused by smoking and related illnesses, most cigarette fire fatalities occur among nonsmokers, including children and firefighters.
- The majority of casualties caused by cigarette fires can be prevented by simple cigarette redesign.
- Fire-safe cigarettes are designed to decrease the burning power of cigarettes that are not being puffed.
- When lit and left unattended, fire-safe cigarettes will not burn intensely for the amount of time necessary to ignite the majority of household fabrics.
- The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has established fire-safe cigarette standards using the National Institute of Standards and Technology Center for Fire Research model.
- In June 2004, Gov. George Pataki and legislators in New York State enacted the world’s first law requiring that all cigarettes sold in that state to be self-extinguishing. The law is intended to reduce the number of fires started by careless smokers. Other states are expected to follow with similar legislation.
Therefore, the American College of Surgeons encourages all physicians to advocate for fire-safe cigarette legislation nationwide.
Barillo DJ, Birgham PA, Kayden DA, et al. The fire-safe cigarette: A burn prevention tool. J Burn Care Rehab. 2000;21:164-169.
Botkin JR. The fire-safe cigarette. JAMA. 1988;260:226-229.
Brigham PA, McGuire A. Progress towards a fire-safe cigarette. J Public Health Policy. 1995;16(4):433-439.
Gunja M, Wayne GF, Landman A, et al. The case for fire safe cigarettes made through industry documents. Tobacco Control. 2002;11:346-353.
McGwin G, Chapman V, Rousculp M, et al. The epidemiology of fire-related death in Alabama, 1992-1997. J Burn Care Rehab. 2000;21:75-83.
McLoughlin E, McGuire A. The causes, costs, and prevention of childhood burn injuries. Childhood Burn Injuries. 1990;144:677-83.
Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. Available at: www.phoenix-society.org/.
The Trauma Foundation: Update on the fire-safe cigarette. How New York legislation will lead to the availability of fire-safe cigarettes across the nation. Available at: www.firesafecig.org/.
Reprinted from Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons
Vol.91, No. 2, February 2006