NIST SRM aids efforts to reduce cigarette fire risk

Cigarettes are the single largest igniters of fatal fires in the United States. Each year these fires cause about 700 to 800 deaths, 1,700 serious injuries and $400 million in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Several states, as well as Canada, have moved to reduce this toll by requiring that all cigarettes sold in their jurisdictions meet a new standard for low risk of igniting household furnishings.

This month, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released Standard Reference Material (SRM) 1082 to help testing laboratories and cigarette manufacturers make accurate measurements required by the new regulations. The SRM consists of 10 packs of uniform cigarettes especially produced with the required low risk of ignition.

The regulations in New York, California, Vermont and Canada all use an ASTM standard, which was originally developed by NIST as part of the Fire Safe Cigarette Act of 1990. All have adopted the 2004 New York State pass/fail criterion that no more than 25 percent of 40 tested cigarettes burn their full length when placed on 10 layers of standard filter paper.

NIST developed SRM 1082 at the request of cigarette companies, the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC), and Health Canada. Extensive testing by NIST, the National Research Council of Canada and Kidde-Fenwal Inc. established that SRM 1082, manufactured for NIST by Philip Morris USA, is compatible with the New York State pass/fail criterion.

Cigarette regulations adopted in New York, California, and Vermont require that no more than 25 percent of 40 cigarettes tested burn their full length when placed on 10 layers of standard filter paper.

Approximately 20 laboratories are or will be performing testing of commercial cigarettes for compliance using the ASTM standard. Comparative measurements between SRM 1082 and commercial cigarettes should enable testing laboratories to assure clients that their measurements are accurate and do not vary over time. Cigarette companies also are expected to use the SRM to check their products' ignition properties prior to certification testing.

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More information about SRM 1082, including purchase data, can be found at https://srmors.nist.gov/view_detail.cfm?srm=1082.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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