Australia demands self-extinguishing cigarettes after bush fires
Australia’s government is to introduce self-extinguishing cigarettes in the wake of the country’s deadliest ever bush fires.
20 Feb 2009
By Bonnie Malkin in Sydney
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A discarded butt has been linked to one of several devastating blazes that swept through the southeastern state of Victoria last week, killing 208 people and leaving more than 10,000 homeless.
The introduction of “fire-safe” cigarettes, currently slated for 2010, could now be brought in before the next bush fire season.
The cigarettes, which are made with special paper and additives so they go out if left unattended, are compulsory in Canada and some states in the United States.
According to government research, approximately seven per cent of fires on public land are started by cigarettes, and eight per cent of all fire-related deaths in Australia between 2000 and 2006 were cigarette-related.
Chris Bowen, consumer affairs minister, said he would push for the mandatory introduction.
“The minister has requested advice from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission looking at the possibility of bringing forward the start date,” a spokesman said.
Pressure groups that have been advocating the cigarettes for years said the regulations should be in place by September, before next summer’s bush fire season begins.
Victoria’s Department of Sustainability and Environment compiles data on fires caused by cigarettes or matches on public land, and it says there was an average of 41 such fires every year.
The Black Saturday blazes scorched 450,000 hectares of Victoria and wiped several entire towns off the map. The country will observe a day of mourning on Sunday to remember the victims of the blazes.