Fire Safe Cigarettes of FSCs have been on the market for a few year now, so lets take a closer look at those and see if we can understand a little more about them. Did you know that if you live in the US, UK, Europe, Canada or Australia, and buy regular cigs, you are already smoking FSC cigarettes. Is this a concern? Lets find out.
In the 1920s, a commission in America found that a large number of fires were being caused by unattended cigarettes. Anyone who has smoked unfiltered cigs or roll-your-own might remember that they used to self-distinguish after a while, so this seems less of an issue. By the 1970s and 1980s, cigarettes included natural chemicals to make them burn more evenly, and which prevented them from going out. This was more of a problem, so they looked in to how they could make cigs safer by making them self-distinguish like the old kind. It was hoped that this would mean less deaths due to cigarette fires.
What IS FSC?
Boffins realised that by making the paper slightly thicker; like the old 1920s cigs; and by packing the tobacco with less air between the leaves, it meant the cig would self-distinguish like the old type. The decided to put 3 or 4 bands of this thicker paper at stages along the length of the cig. In the industry, this was seen as "speed bumps for cigarettes" - in that the smoker must puff through those bands of paper when the ash reaches those places, or the cig would struggle to burn and eventually go out.
Unlike popular stories, of course the media tells us the opposite of the truth. In this case the media might suggest FSC cigs contain fire-retardant chemicals, but I have found no evidence of this during my research. It seems that if the recipe or blend of tobacco in FSC cigs tastes different than before, it is because they changed the blend, and they didnt add fire-proof chemicals as has been suggested. The whole technology works on the principle of paper layering or folding, which restricts oxygen to the burning ember. The only extra element added would be the extra adhesive they use to bind the papers together, and this has been the same material used since the 1920s.
Which Countries Use FSC?
This technology has been approved safe by the FDA, and so everywhere in America and Canada use it, as well as Western Europe and Australia. Countries with no FSC laws include South America, China, Japan and India.
Why do I feel light headed with FSC?
"Since FSC cigarettes are synonymous with going out if they’re not puffed frequently, smokers are more than likely going to dramatically increase the amount of toxic compounds they inhale, including tar from the additional incomplete combustion." Just like "light" cigs; where some smokers draw more deeply in order to give the same hit as non-light cigs; the FSC speed bumps technology means the smoker is more likely to experience a more tightly packed cigarette, which makes them draw very much more deeply. A very light draw from a cig might be enough for the top part of the lungs before the user exhales, but FSCs need cheek hollowing drags which fill the whole of the lungs, and cause more general damage. So if you feel like you've taken in more tar than normal, this is perhaps the reason. If they changed the tobacco blend since the introduction of FSC in 2003, this is why they taste different.
Are You Sure??
"In 2005, the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study to determine the effect of the New York fire-safe cigarette law “on ignition propensity, smoke toxicity, and the consumer market.” It compared several brands of fire-safe cigarettes from New York with conventional brands from Massachusetts. With regard to cigarette toxicity, the study concluded that the majority of compounds tested were not different between New York and Massachusetts brands." The small difference they found in the TAR between blends was also explained by shipments to Northern areas might have a stronger blend deliberately, or in the south the packs are closer to the growing fields and is therefore naturally fresher. Combustion rates from fresher packs also affect TAR intake.
Do FSC Cigs Prevent Fires?
In a word, no. Since the introduction, many people have noticed that sometimes the end of the lit cigarette just falls off, or breaks off - sending a ball of red hot (half burned) ash to the floor which starts burning the house down. If a cig is made from roll-your-own materials, this happens because of the air pockets or gaps in the tobacco. If you smoke FSC, it is because the tip cant burn through the thicker bands of paper, and gets too heavy and just falls off. This is a fire hazard which has increased over the last 15 years.
"In 2000, Philip Morris introduced the 'fire-safe' Merit cigarette, with two thicker paper bands to slow the burning. Later that year, the company received hundreds of complaints alleging that long, partly burned tobacco was falling off the tips of lit Merit cigarettes, burning skin and flammable items. An in-house scientist (Michael Lee Watkins) analyzed the data and concluded Merit to actually be a greater fire risk than conventional cigarettes. In early 2002 Watkins was fired, and Merit continued to be marketed. For concealing information about the fire hazard, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Philip Morris."
"New York officials were well aware of “hot coal drop off” when they passed the first FSC law. Their feeling was that an increased number of clothes and localized skin burns was a fair trade-off to potentially reduce the number of smoking-related fire deaths."
Is There a Reduction in Deaths with FSC?
"Smoking-related fire deaths had been trending downward for many years, well before 2003, mainly because the smoking rate had also been falling. The New York State Department of Health’s statistics show smoking rates in New York fell from 21.6% in 2003 to 16.8% in 2008. Other factors that contributed to the decline in the death rate include fire-safety education, fire-resistant fabrics, hard-wired smoke detectors, and firewalls. New York’s smoking-related fire statistics show that in the four years before 2004, there was an average of 5.36 fires per year for every 10,000 people who smoked. In the four years after 2004, there was an average of 5.69. In 2008, there were 6.37 fires for every 10,000 people who smoked in New York. The frequency of a smoker’s home catching on fire has actually increased since the law went into effect. "
Deaths directly from cigarette fires are barely in double figures per country, so it seems they brought in this measures to save a few lives each year. "In Australia, around 14 people are claimed to die annually from cigarette related fires. Each year in Canada, [Home and Forest] fires started by smokers' materials kill approximately 70 people and cause 300 injuries, according to a study conducted by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs."
According to the World Health Organisations, FSC appears to be the “principal reason for a 30% decline in smoking material fire deaths from 2003 to 2011”. They dont mention that this decline is due to an annual reduction in smokers, and the use of fire-proof fabrics used in modern seating.
"More People Die in Fires caused by Smoking then any other Source!" ?
This is a popular quote from Fire departments, but as usual it is misleading to the point of being a blatant lie. They say things like "Did you know that [smoking related] fires started in the bedroom or lounge make up 73% of all house fire fatalities?". In truth, cooking fires account for the majority of house fires and deaths, followed by faulty heaters, power extension cords, and then faulty wiring is fourth most common. If you dont smoke in bed, then the next one of the list is Candles, then kids playing with matches, and finally pets causing fires (or mice eating cables etc). If you smoke but dont fall asleep while smoking, there is only a small change you will die from a cigarette related fire.
They say "106,000 people in the UK die every year due to the effects of smoking" and yet close to half a million die from drinking related brawls, and drinking while smoking and then falling asleep. In effect, half of the smoking related house fire are caused because the person is drunk and passed out. This is the same with many cooking fires, the person came home drunk, they put a pan on the hob but then fell asleep - so these are in fact drink-caused deaths.
What action has been taken to prevent FSC?
A group called Citizens Against Fire Safe Cigarettes started an online petition November 15, 2008 to repeal the laws. There were over "26,000 signatures on it by 2010, filled with comments from angry people who say they were fine before they started smoking FSC cigarettes, and are now suffering from adverse health effects. Their complaints include coughing up blood, splitting headaches, nausea and vomiting, sores in the mouth and throat, winding up in the hospital, and disgust with their government." After 2010 the campaign was stopped and no further progress was made.
The Future of FSC?
In 2017, a study headed up by lead author Dr. Carl Bonander "found no evidence that so-called fire-safe cigarettes reduced the number of fires overall or fires started by cigarettes in the states where they were mandated, leaving the jury still out on whether these laws are a good way to protect people."
www.huffpost.com/entry/fire-safe-cigare ... s_b_519867
www.who.int/tobacco/industry/product_re ... rettes/en/
www.realinsurance.com.au/home-insurance ... ouse-fires