A recent lawsuit
filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against Philip Morris, the largest cigarette
manufacturer in the United States, accuses the tobacco company of concealing data indicating Merit brand cigarettes pose a fire risk. According to the lawsuit, Philip Morris fired a scientist after he discovered that a new fire-proof design actually increases the risk for fire and potential injury.
In the 1990s, interest groups sparked a heated debate with cigarette manufacturers over fire-safe tobacco products. Consumers, health officials and politicians demanded self-extinguishing cigarettes, products that would put themselves out when not being puffed. In late 1999, Philip Morris patented a self-extinguishing product (two bands of thicker paper were added to cigarettes which slowed the burning until they were put out) and began marketing the new design in the summer of 2000 under the company's Merit brand. Later that year, the company received hundreds of complaints alleging that long, partly-burned tobacco was falling off the tips of lit Merit cigarettes, burning skin and flammable items.
According to the Philip Morris scientist, the added bands of thicker paper resulted in longer and heavier clumps of burned tobacco, which were more likely to fall off a lit cigarette. The new design was found to be several times more likely to cause a fire or injury than conventional cigarettes. According to the lawsuit, the scientist was fired after submitting his findings and the company continues to market the cigarettes. The lawsuit claims the termination was part of an effort to conceal the dangers of the new cigarette design. Philip Morris has denied any wrongdoing.
Despite the new designs, cigarette fires
still account for hundreds of fatalities every year. In fact, smoking materials, including matches, lighters and cigarettes, are the nation's biggest causes of fires. The total annual cost of cigarette fires, including fatal injuries, non-fatal hospital visits and property damage reaches the billions of dollars.
If you have suffered injuries due to a cigarette fire, especially involving Merit brand cigarettes, it may be important to contact an attorney
who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits
within which you must commence suit.
- Cigarette Fires
- Burns: Overview
- Scars: Overview
- Skin Disorders: Overview