Insurers Urge Maryland to Adopt Fire-Safe Cigarette Law

March 7, 2006

Lawmakers in Annapolis are considering legislation to mandate that cigarettes sold in Maryland meet tough new fire safety requirements.

The insurance industry is backing the measure (HB 1300) that is now before the House Economic Matters Committee. The American Insurance Association says that cigarettes meeting this new codes could save lives and significantly reduce property losses because they would be much less likely to cause fires.

The legislation, sponsored by Del. Brian R. Moe (D – Anne Arundel & Prince George’s Counties), would require that all cigarettes sold and manufactured in Maryland will be required to comply with standards demonstrating a reduced propensity to burn when left unattended. Such “fire-safe” cigarettes help prevent smoking-related fires
Smoking-related fires are the leading cause of residential fire deaths in the U.S. – killing more than 800 people nationwide and costing millions of dollars in property damage each year.

Taylor Cosby, vice-president of AIA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, told lawmakers that in 2004 there were 473 smoking material-caused fires in Maryland, resulting in 25 percent of all fire deaths in the state, and estimated property losses of $4.5 million.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has reported that residential smoking fires are characterized by higher levels of loss compared to other types of residential structure fires. Residential smoking fires result in property losses that are 22 percent higher than those from other causes, and the death rate is nearly four times higher.

New York and Vermont have already adopted fire-safe cigarette requirements and similar legislation was passed in California in 2005. A preliminary report from New York showed that the number of deaths caused by cigarette-ignited fires has dropped 33 percent since that state’s fire-safe cigarette requirement went into effect.

“AIA supports the use of fire-safe cigarettes in conjunction with public fire safety education, smoking cessation programs, and continued stringent standards for ignition resistance of mattresses and upholstered furniture,” said Cosby. “We believe that HB 1300 will certainly help to save lives and property in Maryland.”

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