Governments wants to speed up introduction of


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20-02-2009 12:35 PM


Radio National

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Radio National


20-02-2009 12:35 PM



20-02-2009 01:40 PM

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2009-02-20 12:35:30

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HALL, Eleanor



EDWARDS, Michael, (journalist)


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Governments wants to speed up introduction of -

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Reporter: Michael Edwards

ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government is moving to reduce the risk of cigarettes sparking bushfires
by speeding up the introduction of self-extinguishing cigarettes.

Some of the fires in Victoria are suspected to have been started by people throwing cigarettes out
of cars and public health experts say it's outrageous that the tobacco companies haven't begun
production of less hazardous cigarettes already.

Michael Edwards has our report.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: According to anti-tobacco campaigners each year a number of Australians die in
house fires started by lit cigarettes and recently it has become apparent that at least one of the
Victorian bushfires was started by someone tossing an unextinguished cigarette out of a car.

Professor Simon Chapman is a public health expert from the University of Sydney.

SIMON CHAPMAN: I think a lot of smokers feel the world is their ashtray and they just throw them
around. Everyone has seen butts and packs all over the ground. And I guess unfortunately these days
smoking is concentrated around people who often have low levels of education, are pretty

Just saying, hey do the right thing, don't litter I'm afraid just doesn't work on a lot of people
so you need to engineer the product so that the thoughtless, mindless individuals who do throw them
out, do discard them in settings like that, it's less likely to cause a problem.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: And to help achieve this from March next year cigarette manufacturers have to
introduce self-extinguishing cigarettes.

Nerida White is the director of communications for the Philip Morris company, one of Australia's
largest cigarette producers. She says Philip Morris is ready to implement the changes.

NERIDA WHITE: It will be using a paper, a special paper that has what we call speed bumps that has
the effect of slowing down the rate of burn on the paper and therefore the rate of the burn of the

MICHAEL WHITE: But in light of the Victorian bushfires the Federal Government is considering
bringing that start date forward.

The Consumer Affairs Minister Chris Bowen is seeking advice from the Australian Competition and
Consumer Commission about fast-tracking the new cigarette regulations.

Professor Simon Chapman says it's outrageous it hasn't already happened.

SIMON CHAPMAN: They have been introduced in Canada and several states of the United States for a
number of years. Australian, the Australian Government has agreed to introduce them from March next
year. Really they ought to bring that forward.

Everyone else is doing their bit to try and reduce the probability of horrendous fires again next
year. The tobacco industry ought to be made to do its role as well.

MICHAEL WHITE: Arson investigators believe two of the deaths in the Victorian bushfires were as a
result of fires started from a lit cigarette.

Professor Chapman says he's been warning the government about the problem for years. He says once
again the tobacco companies have put commercial concerns ahead of public safety.

SIMON CHAPMAN: The reason why it's been resisted is that the tobacco companies know that smokers
don't like these cigarettes as much as the regular ones because they tend to go out when left
undrawn on for example in ashtrays or you know, holding them by the side of your body or something
like that.

MICHAEL WHITE: Another of Australia's largest cigarette producers British American Tobacco says it
has yet to be consulted about bringing forward the implementation date.

Philip Morris says it's not sure whether it could introduce the changes before March next year and
its spokeswoman Nerida White says no matter how cigarettes are manufactured, it's smokers who have
to be careful where they butt out.

NERIDA WHITE: Consumers and smokers need to remain aware that all lit end cigarettes pose fire
risks and they need to be handled and disposed of very carefully. That applies to cigarettes today
and it will continue to apply to cigarettes that comply with the reduced fire risk standard and the

ELEANOR HALL: Nerida White, the director of communications at Philip Morris ending that report by
Michael Edwards.