Cigarette companies Philip Morris and Zen Sensation have made undertakings to not supply cigarettes that fail to comply with Australia’s mandatory Reduced Fire Risk safety standard, following recalls in 2015.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) accepted the court enforceable undertakings this week, which included a voluntary $300,000 donation by Philip Morris to the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS).
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said all cigarettes sold in Australia must meet the mandatory safety standard to self-extinguish when left unattended.
“Before the Reduced Fire Risk Standard was adopted, discarded cigarettes and related products started over 4,500 fires and killed an average of 14 people each year,” he said.
“In the bushfire-prone Australian environment, and with the significant risk of injury and damage from fires, all manufacturers and importers of cigarettes must have stringent internal controls in place to ensure that their products comply with the Reduced Fire Risk Standard.
“Supplying products that do not comply with a mandatory safety standard is an offence under the Australian Consumer Law, and the ACCC will act swiftly to prevent harm to consumers.”
The problem was detected by the ACCC in a compliance survey which revealed that Zen Sensation supplied a total of 20 million TS Blue cigarettes and 4.5 million TS Gold cigarettes between October 2013 and July 2015.
Following contact from the ACCC about the matter, Zen conducted a voluntary recall.
Philip Morris self-reported its supply of 306,000 non-compliant packets of Choice Signature Bold and Choice Signature Classic and undertook a voluntary recall on 17 October 2015.
It is understood that 192,470 packs of Choice were removed from sale by retailers, with the remaining 113,530 packs expected to have been consumed on the weekend of the recall.
Philip Morris communications manager Simon Dowding said the company was serious about fire safety, having “undertaken all the necessary measures to ensure this unique incident is not repeated”.
“Unfortunately, in this situation in 2015, we inadvertently distributed a limited batch of products before our fire safety testing was completed,” he said.
“We took corrective action as soon as we detected the problem, informed local authorities and implemented new controls to help ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
Mr Dowding added that Philip Morris was working towards introducing non-combustible products to Australia that, among other benefits, will assist with efforts to reduce the risk of fires.
Cigarettes manufactured for sale and consumption in Australia must be produced in such a way that, when lit and unattended, will have the propensity to extinguish withoout assistance.
Compliance with the Reduced Fire Risk standard requires that 75 per cent of cigarettes will go out before burning along their full length of tobacco.
Mandatory Reduced Fire Risk standards do not necessarily make cigarettes “fire safe”, meaning consumers must dispose of lit cigarettes responsibly by properly extinguishing them before disposal.
Retailers or consumers who suspect a problem with any Philip Morris product can call the company to make a report on 1800 237 246.
C&I Week has requested comment from NSW RFS about the donation.