Panel Approves Maine Bill Requiring “Fire-Safe” Cigarettes

March 12, 2007

A legislative panel has given its approval to a bill to require cigarette makers to sell only self-extinguishing cigarettes in Maine.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Friday unanimously approved a bill that would add Maine to the growing list of states restricting cigarette sales to so-called “fire-safe” brands.

“I think the House and Senate will easily pass this bill,” said Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, co-chairman of the committee. “Unlike last year, everybody wants to see this happen.”

New York, California, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Illinois have all passed legislation requiring fire-safe cigarettes, according to the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes. Legislation has been filed, but not yet passed, in more than 20 other states, the coalition said.

Fire-safe cigarettes have a reduced propensity to burn when they are left unattended.

State Fire Marshal John Dean told the committee that smoking was the No. 1 cause of fatal fires in Maine between 1993 and 2005. In those years, 64 of the 239 fire-related deaths were smoking-related, he said, typically when people fell asleep while smoking.

Dean said he is confident the bill will be passed into law by the full Legislature: “It will be difficult to assess the impact of the law after a year, but over time we will see that this law saves lives. That’s the bottom line,” he said.

Diamond said tobacco companies and their distributors want the law passed.

Maine is located at the end of the regional distribution system, and Diamond said it makes economic sense for the companies to sell the same products throughout New England, where all the other states have either passed or are considering fire-safe cigarette legislation.

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