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Illegal cigarettes create greater house fire risks

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: December 19, 2013

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ASHBOURNE households are being advised of the increased risk of fire in the home over Christmas associated with buying cheap illicit cigarettes.

In addition smokers are being warned that smoking these cigarettes also poses greater health risks.

Derbyshire County Council found that all the illicit tobacco products seized in recent raids were missing vital safety features which help to prevent house fires.

Since 2011 all cigarettes sold in the UK should by law be manufactured with narrow bands of fire retardant paper, called ‘speed bumps’.

These strips greatly reduce the risk of cigarettes continuing to burn if they are left unattended, such as when they are dropped or a smoker falls asleep.

An accredited laboratory carried out tests on 18 samples collected from nine shops in the region, using an ignition trial.

Only one of the samples passed the test but this was from a little known legitimate brand which had been smuggled into the country.

Derbyshire County Council Deputy Cabinet Member for Health and Communities Councillor Ellie Wilcox said: “The fire risks of fake tobacco are all the more reason for people not to smoke.

“But if they choose to do so they should buy tobacco from a legitimate local shop.

“It’s no surprise that criminals involved in the illegal tobacco trade are prepared to risk even more lives by flouting safety laws designed to protect people from house fires.

“We know that smoking any kind of tobacco is potentially lethal but the illegal trade threatens to undermine every effort to regulate smoking and discourage people from starting.

“This is by no means a victimless crime.

“It has a damaging effect on our local communities and honest business owners.”

The majority of cigarettes seized by the county council’s trading standard team were either brands made purely for the illicit trade including Jin Ling, Pect, Excellence, New Line, Viceroy and Goal, or counterfeit versions of legitimate brands such as Palace, Mayfair, Benson and Hedges and Regal made in illegal factories.

Neither type complied with European safety standards.

All the shops and individuals responsible for selling the illegal products are subject to ongoing investigation.

Cigarettes are the biggest cause of domestic fire deaths causing more than 100 deaths each year with smoking materials thought to cause around 30 per cent of all house fires.

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