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Cigarette Aids Efforts to Reduce Furniture and Bed Fire Risk

On September 10, 2010, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) made available for purchase a new Standard Reference Material, SRM 1196 Standard Cigarette for Ignition Resistance Testing.

For over 40 years, upholstered furniture and mattresses have been tested to verify that they are less prone to ignition by burning cigarettes. There are several such tests, some required by the federal government and the state of California, others adopted by the furniture and mattress industries themselves. In the tests, lit cigarettes are placed on the furniture or furniture components, and ignition or non-ignition is noted. These tests have contributed substantially to the overall decrease in fire-related deaths and injuries in the United States.

Since the 1970s, the cigarette used in these tests was a commercial cigarette that the National Bureau of Standards, now NIST, identified in the 1970s as the hottest burning. As of this year, nearly all of North America is subject to regulations that require cigarettes to be less likely to cause ignition. Therefore, the test cigarette that had been used for decades is no longer in production. The new generation of cigarettes appears to be reducing fire deaths from cigarettes by half, saving about 400 lives per year. Holding onto this gain, however, requires that furniture and beds continue to be as resistant to cigarette ignition as they have been for the past 40 years. SRM 1196 cigarettes were specially produced to replicate the ignition performance of the earlier test cigarette that had been used for decades.

SRM 1196 was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. There are now two SRM cigarettes, each with different properties and serving different user communities. SRM 1082, first available in 2006, has a low ignition strength, characteristic of all commercial cigarettes that must now meet the new fire safety regulations throughout North America. SRM 1082 is used by manufacturers of cigarettes for certification and quality assurance of their products. As stated above, SRM 1196 is a high ignition strength cigarette, used by furnishings manufacturers to verify that their products meet mandatory and voluntary standards for ignition resistance. Regulators can use SRM 1082 to help verify regulatory compliance of commercial cigarettes and SRM 1196 to verify regulatory compliance of furnishings.

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