mission is to reduce the number of injuries and deaths due to
"Burn cases are
the Achille's heel of the tobacco industry...because there's no way they can
get around the fact that innocent children are burned and killed in fires
caused by their product."
Historic Settlement by Philip Morris for Child's Injuries Caused by a Smoldering Cigarette
As reported on this web page before, cigarette-ignited fires are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States. Approximately 1000 children, adults, and elders are killed annually due to cigarette-ignited fires and an additional 3,000 are burn injured.
The tobacco industry has long known how to create a cigarette that will not ignite bedding or furnishings, causing deadly fires. However, fearing the admission of culpability and litigation, the powerful tobacco industry and its lobby have been largely reluctant to produce such cigarettes and to let state and federal legislatures impose standards on their deadly but profitable products.
Cigarette companies have traditionally fought hard to prevent smoking-related fire injury cases from successfully working their way through the court system and the companies have been strident about not settling these cases. All of that has changed with the recent settlement by Philip Morris for injuries sustained by a child, Shannon Moore, burned on 77% of her body as a result of a fire started by a smoldering cigarette. Despite the $2 million settlement, Philip Morris continues to claim the fire was not started by the cigarette, and was the fault of the girl's mother.
In 2000, six years into the Shannon Moore case, Philip Morris introduced its Merit brand, a cigarette designed to produce a slower and cooler burn. In court, the company would have faced questions about why it had not produced a fire-safe cigarette sooner and why this technology is not used with all its brands. Fire-safe cigarette activists such as Trauma Foundation Executive Director, Andrew McGuire, the leader of the 24 year campaign for fire-safe cigarettes, and Northwestern University law professor and head of the Tobacco Products Liability Project, Richard Daynard, believe that the door has been opened for more lawsuits against cigarette companies.
New York is the first state in the nation to pass a fire-safe cigarette bill, requiring all cigarettes sold in the state to be fire-safe. The Secretary of State of New York promulgated a fire-safe standard in September which will take effect in approximately six months. Thus, next spring cigarettes sold in New York will have to be fire-safe.
Once the tobacco industry is required to create a fire-safe cigarette in order to do business in a state such as New York, these fire-safe cigarettes will likely become available across the nation. In turn, this probably will result in a substantial drop in deaths from cigarette-ignited fires.
The combination of increased litigation
against cigarette companies and New York state's fire-safe cigarette law
will ultimately force the tobacco industry to do the right thing and make
all their cigarettes fire-safe, thus protecting innocent children like
Shannon Moore and the many others who are burn injured and killed today in