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New NIST 'Standard Cigarette' Available for Fire-Resistance Testing

For Immediate Release: September 28, 2010

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Contact: Michael E. Newman
301-975-3025

Cigarettes are the most frequent cause of fatalities from residential fires in the United States. So, it might seem surprising to learn that a cigarette that burns stronger than others has been used for decades by manufacturers of home furnishings to test the fire resistance of their products. Making certain that they can continue this life- and property-saving effort is the job of a new standard reference material (SRM) from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

NIST SRM 1196, “Standard Cigarette for Ignition Resistance Testing,” consists of 10 packs of uniform cigarettes designed to replicate the ignition performance of the “hottest burning” brand produced in the 1970s when NIST studied the fire-starting propensity of commercially sold tobacco products. The standard cigarettes are designed to be placed on a mattress, a piece of upholstered furniture or furniture components to verify if these items have been manufactured to meet mandatory and voluntary federal, state and/or industry guidelines for resistance to ignition by burning cigarettes. The cigarettes were developed by NIST in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to replace the commercial cigarettes that had been used for 30 years of home furnishings testing but are no longer in production.

SRM 1196 is distinctly different from another cigarette standard first issued by NIST in 2006. SRM 1082, “Cigarette Ignition Strength Standard,” also consists of 10 packs of specially designed cigarettes, but in this case, the cigarettes have a reduced propensity for igniting household furnishings. Nearly all of the United States and Canada are covered by regulations that require all cigarettes sold to have this safety performance trait (commonly, but incorrectly, referred to as being “fire-safe”). SRM 1082 helps cigarette manufacturers, testing laboratories and regulatory agencies make accurate measurements to determine if commercially sold brands meet the regulations. SRM 1196, on the other hand, will be used to test the fire safety of household furnishings.

Standard reference materials are among the most widely distributed and used products from NIST. The agency prepares, analyzes and distributes more than a thousand different materials that are used throughout the world to check the accuracy of instruments and test procedures used in manufacturing, clinical chemistry, environmental monitoring, electronics, criminal forensics and dozens of other fields. For more information on SRM 1196, including purchase data, see www.nist.gov/ts/msd/srm.