Standard cigarettes which stay alight when not being smoked could be banned as part of controversial European Commission plans to reduce house fires.

The EC is currently considering plans to force manufacturers to produce only special cigarettes which automatically go out when they are left unattended for a short period of time.

These types of restrictions are already in place in some parts of the US, including New York and California. However, Chris Ogden, director of trade and industry affairs at the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, said measures such as these were too heavy-handed for the UK, which already had stringent regulations regarding fire-retardant furniture. 

He added that the changes would cause a number of technical difficulties for manufacturers, who would have to increase the thickness of the paper to create the self-extinguishing cigarettes. This change would alter the amount of nicotine and tar inhaled by the smoker - making the whole process intensely complicated, he said.
Costs would also rise and inevitably be passed on to smokers, Ogden said, adding that the change would also alter the smoking characteristics for consumers, who would have to suck much harder to keep their cigarettes alight.

The commission is set to publish its decision on the plans this November, and is reported to have set a target of 2010 for the change.