‘Fire-Safe’ Cigarette Bill Advances in Kentucky

February 16, 2007

Kentucky’s status as the nation’s leading adult smoking state makes it more susceptible to fatal fires sparked by cigarettes, a safety advocate said this week. The solution is to join several other states by requiring tobacco manufacturers to only sell “fire-safe” cigarettes, he told lawmakers.

The legislation, backed by the National Fire Protection Association, drew no opposition in winning approval from the House Licensing and Occupations Committee.

Russ Sanders, with the fire-safety group, said Kentucky has the nation’s ninth worst fire-death record nationally as well as the highest percentage of smoking adults.

“It’s pretty easy to connect the dots,” Sanders told the committee. “If this legislation passes, we will save lives in Kentucky.”

Sanders, a former Louisville fire chief, said he fought plenty of fatal fires caused by cigarettes during his long career as a firefighter. He said those deaths could be prevented by requiring tobacco manufacturers to sell “fire-safe” cigarettes.

Such cigarettes are wrapped with thin bands of less-porous paper that serve as “speed bumps” to slow down a burning cigarette. A cigarette left unattended will extinguish when the burning tobacco reaches one of the “speed bumps,” he said.

Sanders said six other states have passed similar legislation, and lawmakers in 17 other states are considering the proposal this year.

Sanders said “fire-safe” cigarettes are just like other smokes, except for the special paper meant to prevent fires.

“It looks exactly the same as any others,” he said, holding a carton of Marlboros sold in New York, which requires the special cigarettes. “The only difference is it will extinguish if you set it down and you don’t puff on it.”

The cigarettes would not cost smokers more money, Sanders said.

Under the Kentucky legislation, any tobacco manufacturer selling cigarettes without the “fire-safe” paper would face fines of up to $10,000 for each sale on a first offense, and up to $25,000 for subsequent offenses. The penalties could not exceed $100,000 during a 30-day period.


The legislation is House Bill 278.

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