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Australia tries to fast-track fire-safe cigarettes

world Updated: Feb 20, 2009 22:37 IST
AP
Australia tries to fast-track fire-safe cigarettes

The Australian government wants to fast-track new rules that make cigarettes less likely to ignite fires, after Australia's deadliest firestorm earlier this month killed at least 208 people, an official said Friday.

The government move comes as scientists warn that climate change will make catastrophic wildfires more common in Australia due to hotter summers and longer droughts.

The new law, passed by parliament last September before the deadly wave of fires on February 7, requires changes to the paper and chemical additives used in cigarettes so that they will stop burning once discarded.

But the rules are not due to take effect until March of next year, and Consumer Affairs Minister Chris Brown wants to speed up the implementation, his spokesman James Cullen said.

Laws requiring so-called ``fire-safe'' cigarettes have come into effect in most US states since 2004, as well as in Canada, and Britain is considering introducing similar rules, the Australian government said in a report on the new regulations.

Australia's largest cigarette manufacturer, British American Tobacco Australia Ltd., said companies need time to switch production under the new rules and that the 2010 start date in Australia was a compromise set by the government in consultation with the tobacco industry.

The company would have to discuss any new deadline with the government before commenting on whether it opposed the change, spokeswoman Louise Warburton said.

She said her company must introduce new technology to its Sydney factory and import its paper from a different supplier to meet the new standards. She did not expect retail prices to change.

Most cigarettes available in Australia are manufactured locally from imported tobacco.

Victoria estimates that 7 per cent of wildfires which raze vast tracts of the state every summer are caused by cigarettes or matches, according to the Australian government.