In Europe, "self-extinguishing" cigarettes are about to become law but where do they stand in the pantheon of safety innovations?
The images from fire safety films are painfully familiar.
They usually feature someone smoking on the sofa - perhaps watching television - only to nod off while the cigarette is still alight. Soon, it drops out of the hand, eventually setting fire to the furniture.
From 17 November, a new EU directive will require cigarettes to meet a reduced ignition propensity (RIP) requirement. They will be manufactured to be self-extinguishable, to reduce the chance that they should set fire to sofas, beds and other combustible materials.
In England, of the 212 people that died in house fires last year, 81 were the result of cigarettes, cigars and pipes, says the Department of Communities and Local Government.
The DCLG estimates the new types of cigarettes could save up to 64 lives each year in England.
Some RIP cigarettes use paper that is rolled differently to normal cigarettes. Narrow bands of paper are applied on top of traditional cigarette paper at various intervals during the paper-making process.
The idea is that these act like "speed bumps". When the cigarette burns down to one of these rings, in the absence of fairly steady puffing, there is a greater chance that the cigarette will go out than with traditional versions.
Safety campaigners stress that there is no such thing as a truly "fire-safe" cigarette but that something that potentially improves public safety can only be a good thing.
New York became the first US state to adopt reduced ignition propensity cigarettes in 2004. In 2009, the state reported an estimated 33% reduction in fatalities due to materials catching fire because of cigarettes.
Other states have followed New York's lead. Today RIPs are available across the US, Canada and Australia.
But it has been a long journey for what appears to be a simple invention.
According to reports, the first North American patent for a self-extinguishing cigarette was registered as early as 1854. Many other patents have been registered since, but early versions usually involved the addition of fire retardants.
The original concept for the types of "fire safer" cigarettes that focus on the paper date back to the early 1900s, according to fire safety scientist Richard Gann.
But it has taken decades for the tobacco industry to get behind it.
"The 'fire safer' cigarette is the latest of a huge number of simple but clever inventions that really can save lives," says Jack Challoner, science writer and author of several books on the history of invention.
"Simple ideas really can save lives - and the best ones can quickly become taken for granted. Without cat's eyes, for example, driving at night would be far more hazardous - but how often do we take notice of them?" says Challoner.
"No one likes it when smoke detectors go off when you are burning toast or when we have to change the batteries - but we are in awe of simple inventions like this when they save lives. And they do."
Source:BBC News, by Rema Rahman
3 November 2011, Last updated at 13:11 GMT
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