Iowa Safer Cigarette Law Starts Jan. 1

December 30, 2008

An Iowa law requiring the sale of new cigarettes that are less likely to start fires goes into effect Jan. 1.

The state Legislature voted earlier this year to approve the sale of the cigarettes that are less likely to cause of fire if they’re dropped, discarded or left near combustible materials.

“We are hoping this is going to reduce the number of fire fatalities,” said state Fire Marshal James Kenkel.

So far in 2008, ten people have died in fires caused by careless smoking. That’s twice as many than in 2007. The overall number of fire deaths this year is 48, up from 30 last year.

The tobacco in “fire-safe” cigarettes is wrapped with two or three thin bands of less-porous paper that helps extinguish itself. Similar laws are in effect in at least 21 other states.

About 800 Americans die each year in fires caused by careless smoking and The Coalition for Fire Safe Cigarettes estimates that number will be reduced if at least half the states pass the law.

Julie Alexander, manager of a Tobacco Outlet Plus store in Des Moines, says 95 percent of her store’s stock is “fire-safe” cigarettes. Many brands have only been available in the new design for some time, she said.

But Alexander said customers’ response hasn’t been positive.

“Our customers say they are harder to smoke and the taste isn’t the same,” Alexander said.

The cause of Iowa’s other fire deaths in 2008 have included faulty wiring and problems with power strips or overloaded power sources; one person died in a house explosion when gasoline used to clean a basement floor ignited; two cooking-related deaths; one fireworks death; and at least four traffic accidents where the victims died from smoke or flames.

Information from: The Des Moines Register,

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