Reps. King, Markey Seek Low-Burn Cigarette Law

May 11, 2004

A Long Island congressman wants to make New York state’s unprecedented cigarette fire safety law a national standard, saying it would save lives by preventing forgotten cigarettes from sparking fatal blazes.

In July, New York is slated to become the first state to enforce a self-extinguishing standard that would require all cigarettes to be kept in banded paper that is less likely to spark fires when left unattended.

Republican Rep. Peter King and Democratic Rep. Edward Markey, of Massachusetts, this week offered a national version of the state’s effort, which is aimed at reducing the number of structural fires caused by unattended cigarettes.

Those fires are most often caused by people who fall asleep with lit cigarettes in their hands, igniting bedding or furniture.

The law is meant to force companies to shift to cigarettes wrapped in paper that burns at a lower temperature than those currently on the market. Not only are the cigarettes less likely to ignite other materials, they will also go out if not puffed on by smokers, typically within a few minutes.

The different paper does not change the toxicity of the ingredients or reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases caused by smoking.

One tobacco firm, Philip Morris USA, said it supports the idea of creating a standard for reducing the risk of fires but has concerns that King’s bill would allow individual states to demand even higher standards, resulting in a patchwork of regulations.

“This legislation would not create a uniform standard and would provide for the potential of 50 conflicting state laws, so certainly that is something that would be a significant concern for us,” company spokesman Brendan McCormick said.

King said he didn’t want to restrict what the states can make a safe cigarette law of their own.

“I don’t want to be in the position of telling a state they can’t have one,” he said.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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