Okla. Bill Would Require Cigarettes to Be ‘Fire Safe’

January 15, 2008

Oklahoma State Rep. Joe Dorman filed a measure for the upcoming legislative session that would make Oklahoma the 31st state to require cigarettes sold within the state to be so-called “fire-safe cigarettes,” which are also known as fire-standards-compliant cigarettes. If passed, cigarettes sold in Oklahoma would have to be made made from fire-safe materials that automatically extinguish if left unattended.

Dorman, D-Rush Springs, noted in announcing his bill that the Coalition for Fire Safe Cigarettes reports cigarettes are the leading cause of home fire fatalities in the United States, killing 700 to 900 people per year.

“Cigarettes are the leading cause of fire fatalities in the United States,” stated Dorman. “And it is not just the smokers who are dying; it is the smoker’s children and spouses who are killed in these fires as well. Cigarettes are not only unhealthy, but they are also highly dangerous to everyone who encounters them.

Since June 2004, New York state has been requiring fire-safe cigarettes, which are made with a paper designed to stop burning after several moments if a smoker doesn’t inhale on the cigarette; since then, 21 more states have enacted the same standard and eight states have legislation pending. The “fire-safe” cigarettes are mandated nationwide in Canada.

In 2003, there were more than 25,000 structure fires caused by cigarettes, which killed 760 people and injured 1,520 others. Property losses from smoking-material fires total hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

In addition, discarded cigarettes are responsible for more than half of all wildfires throughout the nation, said an official with the National Incident Information Center. In 2005, there were more than 66,000 wildfires in the U.S. that burnt more than 8.6 million acres of property, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Dorman said the goal of the legislation is to protect not only smokers, but also innocent victims and all citizens who are forced to pay higher insurance premiums as a result of the sheer number of fires caused by cigarettes.

An estimated one-quarter of the victims aren’t smokers. Instead they are often children living in the same home who die in the blaze. Up to 34 percent are children of the smokers; 25 percent are neighbors or friends; 14 percent are spouses or partners; and 13 percent are parents.

A study conducted by the National Fire Protection Association in the 1980s predicted that fire-safe cigarettes would eliminate three out of four cigarette fire deaths, meaning more than 15,000 lives could have been saved by now if cigarette manufacturers had begun producing only fire-safe cigarettes.

A collateral effect of the legislation would be a reduction in the number of people exposed to second-hand smoke from cigarettes because the “fire-safe” cigarettes automatically extinguish themselves when left alone, said Dorman.

Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives, www.lsb.state.ok.us/

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