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From strange bedfellows to natural allies: the shifting allegiance of fire service organisations in the push for federal fire-safe cigarette legislation


Background: Cigarettes are the leading cause of fatal fires in the USA and are associated with one in four fire deaths. Although the technology needed to make fire-safe cigarettes has been available for many years, progress has been slow on legislative and regulatory fronts to require the tobacco industry to manufacture fire-safe cigarettes.

Method and results: We conducted a case study, drawing on data from tobacco industry documents, archives, and key informant interviews to investigate tobacco industry strategies for thwarting fire-safe cigarette legislation in the US Congress. We apply a theoretical framework that posits that policymaking is the product of three sets of forces: interests, institutions, and ideas, to examine tobacco industry behaviour, with a special focus on their and others’ attempts to court fire service organisations, including firefighters’ unions as allies. We discuss the implications of our findings for future policy efforts related to fire-safe cigarettes and other tobacco control issues.

Conclusions: Tobacco control advocates ought to: continue efforts to align key interest groups, including the firefighters unions; contest tobacco industry “diversionary” science tactics; and pursue a state based legislative strategy for fire-safe cigarettes, building towards national legislation.

  • CPSC, Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • NFIRS, National Fire Incident Reporting System
  • NFPA, National Fire Protection Association
  • OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • fire-safe cigarettes
  • legislation
  • organised labour

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