May 14, 2008

Fire + Wind = More Fire

This story appeared in teh New Bedford Standard times:

An early morning fire at 31 Princeton Street is being blamed on a lit fire-safe cigarette. This is the second New Bedford fire in two months believed to have been caused by this type of cigarette, which is designed to prevent accidental fires. [...]

He noted that the fire was likely caused by a Marlboro Medium fire-safe cigarette left in an ashtray that was placed on a windowsill. Fire-safe cigarettes are constructed with bands of slow-burning paper that are supposed to cause the cigarette to go out if left unattended for an extended amount of time. The ashtray with the lit cigarette fell onto an unused bed, igniting it.

My hypothesis is that "fire-safe cigarette" is a misnomer. Things that are fire safe do not cause fires, and thus these cigarettes are not fire safe. But I applaud the efforts of the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes just the same.

The website of the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes states:

Fire-safe cigarettes are a proven, practical, and effective way to eliminate the risk of cigarette-ignited fires.

but also:

Is it possible for a "fire-safe" cigarette to ignite furniture or bedding?
All cigarettes have the potential to ignite fires, but the use of "fire-safe" technology provides a tremendous reduction in those risks. A fire-safe cigarette cuts off the burning time before most cigarettes are able to ignite things like furniture or bedding material.

My understanding is that these are safer. But not safe. These cigarettes are mandated in MA, and the Coalition has statistics showing that cigarette-related fires have dropped. So that's good.

But it never makes sense to leave a cigarette unattended. I imagine it was placed on the sill so that the smoke wouldn't enter the house. Possibly someone in the building objects to the smoke. Maybe the wind blew the ashtray over and nobody was around to notice it. In any case, it's clear that "fore-safe" or not, you're taking a big risk if you leave your cigarette lying around.

,,,

Posted by James at May 14, 2008 8:43 PM
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Comments

And I imagine that saying they are a proven way to eliminate the risk misleads idiots into thinking they can be left unattended.

Posted by: briwei at May 15, 2008 11:52 AM

I wondered about that, but do the people who are likely to leave their cigs unattended even know they're called "fire-safe?"

Maybe, maybe now.

Posted by: James at May 15, 2008 12:37 PM

Ok, now I feel like I'm reviewing advertising for work. Let me put on my Regulatory hat and tease out the good and bad here.

The Coalition states:

"Fire-safe cigarettes are a proven, practical, and effective way to eliminate the risk of cigarette-ignited fires. The use of cigarettes that have a reduced propensity to burn when left unattended will help prevent tens of thousands of cigarette-ignited fires each year."

These two sentences are in conflict.

This is a 100% guarantee of efficacy: "Fire-safe cigarettes are a proven, practical, and effective way to eliminate the risk of cigarette-ignited fires." I would ask to see the data to back up the "eliminate" claim. Very few things work 100% of the time. In fact, I can't think of one off the top of my head. If they had said "help eliminate," they would be on better ground.

The following statement is much better. Note the words used as caveats so as not to confer a 100% guarantee of efficacy, unlike like the previous statement:

"The use of cigarettes that have a reduced propensity to burn when left unattended will help prevent tens of thousands of cigarette-ignited fires each year."

Posted by: Patti M. at May 15, 2008 12:44 PM

Agreed: "eliminate" is clearly incorrect.

Posted by: James at May 15, 2008 12:48 PM

Glad you agree. Want a job? We're hiring!

Posted by: Patti M. at May 15, 2008 1:00 PM

Dear Patti:
Being dead eliminates the possibility of contracting a cold. 100% effective. ;-)

Late to the party, but I was thinking what Brian said. "Oh, this is a 'fire-safe cigarette', I can leave it unattended." Like leaving a baby in the bathtub because you have her in a bath ring. Those things are a huge help when you're trying to bathe one of those wiggling creatures, but they still can't be left unattended and babies have died that way.

But if it reduces the number of fires, then it's a good technology because there will always be idiots.

Posted by: Maggie at May 16, 2008 10:46 AM

But if it reduces the number of fires, then it's a good technology because there will always be idiots.

The key being it helps protect US from the idiots. I'm not particularly worried about protecting the idiots from themselves.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at May 16, 2008 10:59 AM

What he said.

Posted by: Patti M. at May 16, 2008 11:25 AM

From a practical ex-smoker's standpoint...

Leave a 'grit unattended? Those puppies are EXPENSIVE. Waste not a puff. Your lungs will thank you ;-)

Posted by: Bull at May 16, 2008 12:43 PM

Yeah, don't you need that thing to light the next one??

Posted by: Maggie at May 17, 2008 3:03 PM

I was never that bad, but my dad was, smoking two cartons a week. His heart bypass surgery at 57 was the reason I quit (his, too).

We were just at the supermarket and saw that a carton of buts is now $55! Holy Toledo, I am so glad I quit when I did (19 years ago last month).

Posted by: Patti M. at May 17, 2008 3:27 PM

wow...19 years...snaps for you!

My dirty little secret is that I still puff when I'm deployed, but never more than a couple a day. I'm always able to stop a week before I get back, and Sarah always smells them anyway!

Especially if you're deployed to the middle east. It's the only way you can make friends with the locals. Especially flavored sheesha.

Posted by: Bull at May 17, 2008 5:54 PM

wow...19 years...snaps for you!

My dirty little secret is that I still puff when I'm deployed, but never more than a couple a day. I'm always able to stop a week before I get back, and Sarah always smells them anyway!

Especially if you're deployed to the middle east. It's the only way you can make friends with the locals. Love flavored sheesha.

Posted by: Bull at May 17, 2008 5:55 PM

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