Four Spalding fire deaths prompt law change petition

June Buffham pictured with her husband, Peter, who died last year.
June Buffham pictured with her husband, Peter, who died last year.
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The daughter of a woman who died engulfed in flames is urging the public to back her petition to stop sellers of illicit cigarettes dealing in death.

June Buffham (71) died in her armchair in Stonegate, Spalding, in April 2012 when an illegal cigarette started a blaze and three East European men perished together in a similar blaze in the town’s Tower Lane last May.

Julie Grant wants Parliament to change the law on cigarette sales.

Julie Grant wants Parliament to change the law on cigarette sales.

Julie Grant has launched a public petition to Parliament in the hope that thousands of people will back it so anyone who sells cigarettes must have a licence.

As the law stands, councils have no powers to strip shopkeepers of the right to sell cigarettes when they are caught selling illicit or fake cigarettes.

Julie says the cigarettes do not have fire safety rings in the outer paper, which means they continue to burn when not being actively smoked – unlike genuine brands which extinguish.

She said: “In Lincolnshire alone since 2012 there have been four fire deaths linked to illicit cigarettes, including that of my Mum. This is four too many and, in my opinion, is a ticking time bomb.

“It has now come to light that these products are being sold on social media too following Thursday’s story in The Spalding Guardian.”

Julie understands council departments like Trading Standards are stretched and believes it is time the Government stepped in to put a new law in place.

“I realise that it won’t stop it all but it may help,” said Julie. “At the moment, as far as I am aware, a local licensing committee has the power to take away an alcohol licence from a premises caught selling either dodgy booze or tobacco products. I am also aware this is not a ‘one strike and you are out’ scenario, which in my opinion it ought to be. Local councils have to jump through hoops at times because of the lack of legislation in place – so let us get it put in place.”

Julie is also calling on Lincolnshire County Council to back her petition and actively promote it as widely as possible, including having it translated into Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian.

She also says the authority could join forces with the police and fire service and agencies like BWY Canine, who work 365 days a year to rid our streets of illicit cigarettes, to help raise awareness of fires caused by the fake cigarettes.

Julie said: “Other counties all over the UK have been holding awareness events but, to date, I have seen very little action from Lincolnshire.

“Can this be put right, please?”

As well as posing a risk of deadly house fires, illicit cigarettes have been found to contain asbestos, rat droppings and human faeces.

“They are full of crap off the floor,” said Julie.

To sign Julie’s petition please visit https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/187881
If 10,000 people sign, the Government will issue a response to the petition – and if 100,000 people sign, it will be considered for a parliamentary debate.

• What do you think? Email lynne.harrison@iliffepublishing.co.uk