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To burn or not to burn: an advocate’s report from the field
  1. A McGuire
  1. Correspondence to:
 MrA McGuire
 Trauma Foundation, San Francisco General Hospital, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA;

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The long campaign for the fire safe cigarette nears its conclusion

During the past two years, three significant events have occurred that will lead to the global reduction of fires caused by cigarettes. First, on 6 May 2003 in a Cleburne, Texas courthouse, the Philip Morris cigarette company ended an eight year products liability case by agreeing to pay damages of $2 million to Shannon Moore before the case went to a jury. Shannon was 21 months old when she sustained a 77% burn injury in a fire caused by a Marlboro cigarette. This represents the first “admission” of guilt by a cigarette company after 15 unsuccessful lawsuits filed in the United States during the past 25 years. Second, on 28 June 2004 the first regulation of cigarettes for fire safety took effect in New York state. (In fact, this was the first time cigarettes have ever been subject to product regulation, although labeling, divulging ingredients, toxicity testing, and taxation have been required by different governments at different times.) All cigarettes sold in New York (and, soon, in Vermont) must pass a fire safety test. Finally, in October 2005 Canada, using the New York performance standard, will become the first nation to regulate the fire safety of cigarettes and require that all cigarettes sold in Canada be “fire safe.” These three events are the culmination of nearly 30 years of advocacy by numerous individuals and organizations, often laboring in the shadows of the “anti-tobacco” movement. In the realm of injury control, the campaign for fire safe cigarettes provides a case study demonstrating that, in spite of overwhelming corporate opposition, regulating an unsafe product can be successful. Advocates need facts to be on their side, a deep commitment to the public’s health, and an abundance of patience.


Annually, in the United …

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