New Year Brings Fire Safe Cigarettes, Extended Tax Break in Oklahoma

December 31, 2008

It may be a little harder to keep cigarettes lit in Oklahoma next year.

Jan. 1 is the effective date for legislation passed last session requiring that cigarettes sold in Oklahoma comply with fire safety standards.

The paper on these “fire-safe” cigarettes is thicker in two separate spots so they will go out if not puffed when they burn to these areas. The idea is to prevent fires caused when cigarettes are left unattended.

Many states already have similar requirements and some brands of cigarettes sold in Oklahoma have already made the change.

The Coalition for Fire Safe Cigarettes says cigarettes are the leading cause of home fire fatalities in the United States, killing 700 to 900 people per year. In 2003, there were more than 25,000 structure fires caused by cigarettes.

“There has been a rash of smoking materials deaths,” State Fire Marshal Robert Doke said Monday. “A cigarette will fall into overstuffed furniture or mattresses when people fall asleep, or it rolls off an ashtray and on to the carpet, then the possibility for ignition happens.

“This cigarette is supposed to snuff out before it can cause enough heat to start a flame.”

Another piece of legislation that goes into effect Jan. 1 extends a tax credit for people who purchase vehicles that run on alternative fuel or convert vehicles to run on such fuel.

The extension was backed by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant. The tax break is intended to encourage people to invest in vehicles and technology that will ultimately reduce dependence on foreign oil.

“Back in May when this was going through the process, gas was three bucks a gallon,” Gumm said. “It still makes sense. Anything we can do to help wean ourselves off of foreign oil is a good thing.”

The bill allows for a one-time income tax credit up to $1,500 for the cost of equipment allowing a vehicle to run on natural gas, methanol or battery power.

“We can’t depend on gas prices to stay low,” Gumm said. “This is not the time to forget what it was like this summer.”

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