The fire-safe cigarette issue arises due to the many fires caused by cigarettes. Cigarettes are unsafe in terms of fires. Some legislators are seeking to require fire-safe cigarettes by law. That is commendable, and definitely needs to be done.

Of course, cigarettes' fire-causing propensity is only a fraction of cigarettes' unsafeness. The major danger is from their toxic chemicals:

acetaldehyde (1.4+ mg)arsenic (500+ ng)benzo(a)pyrene (.1+ ng)
cadmium (1,300+ ng)crotonaldehyde (.2+ µg)chromium (1,000+ ng)
ethylcarbamate 310+ ng)formaldehyde (1.6+ µg)hydrazine (14+ ng)
lead (8+ µg)nickel (2,000+ ng)radioactive polonium (.2+ Pci)
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS),
Reducing the Health Consequences of Smoking:
25 Years of Progress: a Report of the Surgeon General
Publication CDC 89-8411, Table 7, pp 86-87 (Washington: 1989)

Due to cigarettes' toxic chemicals, cigarettes emit deleterious levels of emissions ("Toxic Tobacco Smoke," abbreviated TTS) far above the safe maximum limits:

Cigarette Emission
Safe Maximum
acetaldehyde 3,200 ppm 200.0 ppm
acrolein 150 ppm     0.5 ppm
ammonia 300 ppm 150.0 ppm
carbon monoxide 42,000 ppm 100.0 ppm
formaldehyde 30 ppm     5.0 ppm
hydrogen cyanide 1,600 ppm   10.0 ppm
hydrogen sulfide 40 ppm   20.0 ppm
methyl chloride 1,200 ppm 100.0 ppm
nitrogen dioxide 250 ppm     5.0 ppm
Source: Department of Health, Education and Welfare (DHEW),
Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee
to the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service
PHS Pub 1103, Table 4, p 60 (Washington: 1964)

The result of cigarettes' TTS chemical unsafeness is this: "Over 37 million people (one of every six Americans alive today) will die from cigarette smoking years before they otherwise would." Source: U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Research on Smoking Behavior, Research Monograph 17, Publication ADM 78-581, page v (Washington: December 1977).

          There are various proposals, for example, the federal bill (H.R. 1130) for "fire-safe" cigarettes—to halt the needless home and business fires caused by cigarettes. But we need to do more than deal only with cigarettes' fire dangerousness.

Michigan has gone the fire-safe-cigarette concept one better, and requires cigarettes to be chemical-safe, i.e., ingredients-safe. This concept requires the ingredients themselves to be safe. The law, number MCL § 750.27, MSA § 28.216, forbids
"any person within the state" from action that "manufactures, sells or gives to anyone, any cigarette containing any ingredient deleterious to health or foreign to tobacco . . . ."

This Michigan concept is more comprehensive than the mere "fire-safe cigarette" concept, as it deals with the complete issue of cigarettes' unsafeness.

          Legislative concern above cigarettes' deleteriousness is of long duration. Note that the Michigan law was passed in 1909.

But Michigan was not really the leader. A decade earlier, due to concern about cigarette dangers in 1897, Tennessee legislators made it illegal
"for any person, firm, or corporation to sell, offer to sell, or to bring into the state for the purpose of selling, giving away, or otherwise disposing of, any cigarettes, cigarette paper, or substitute for the same." Austin v State, 101 Tenn 563, 566-567; 48 SW 305, 306; 50 LRA 478; 70 Am St Rep 703 (1898) affirmed 179 US 343; 21 S Ct 132; 45 L Ed 224 (1900).

Iowa legislators in 1897 did even more. They passed a comprehensive law. Iowa's "Section 5006 of the Code forbids . . . the manufacture, sale, exchange, or disposition of cigarettes or cigarette paper." See Hodge v Muscatine County, 121 Iowa 482, 483; 96 NW 968; 67 LRA 624; 104 Am St Rep 304 (1903) aff'd 196 US 276; 25 S Ct 237; 49 L Ed 477 (1905).

To deal with the complete cigarette danger, it is needful to go beyond the issue of merely "fire-safe cigarettes." The ingredients themselves, as with all other consumer products, must be safe, so that they do not cause harm when used as the manufacturers intend. Legislators everywhere should adopt the Michigan, Tennessee, or Iowa approach.

For Further Information
and Fuller Explanations
Cigarettes' Toxic Chemicals
Michigan's Safe Cigarettes Law
Tennessee's Cigarette Sales Ban Law
Iowa's Comprehensive Law
Overview of Cigarette Issues Site Information

Discussion Group: More Participants Welcome

This site is sponsored as a public service by
The Crime Prevention Group


Copyright © 1999 Leroy J. Pletten