Local News

Momentum Building for 'Fire-Safe' Cigarettes in N.C.

Posted March 28, 2007 7:00 p.m. EDT
Updated March 28, 2007 8:18 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina could soon join 20 other states considering legislation that would require the sale of so-called "fire-safe" cigarettes.

Seven states, including New York and California, require cigarettes to meet certain fire-safety standards.

After a house fire killed six children and four adults in February, Kentucky recently passed a law allowing only the sale of cigarettes that extinguish themselves. Investigators believe a smoldering cigarette dropped into a chair started that fire.

"It's really a common-sense solution to an unnecessary problem," said Rob Thompson with the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group. "We can make cigarettes so that they burn out without burning down the house."

The fire-safe cigarettes contain the same tobacco but are wrapped with paper that extinguishes the fire unless it is puffed.

So far, there is no formal legislation in North Carolina, but it is coming.

Kristin Milam, a spokeswoman for North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Jim Long, said he suppors the idea.

"He's supportive of all these life-safety initiatives, anything that will keep a discarded cigarette—or potentially prevent these fires, yes we support that," Milam said.

Sen. Eddie Goodall, R-Mecklenburg, says he is interested but worries about the conversion cost for cigarette-makers.

"We're always looking at consumers and protecting people, but at the same time, trying not to over-regulate companies," he said.

Companies such as RJR Tobacco oppose any mandatory conversion to so-called fire-safe cigarettes, calling them misleading, because they still burn and they can still cause fires.

Phillip Morris, which owns the patent to the special paper, supports the conversion.

The National Fire Protection Association says fires started by cigarettes are the leading cause of home-fire deaths in the United States. They kill 700 to 900 people each year.

Fire officials believe discarded smoking material, such as a cigarette, led to a massive fire that destroyed 30 homes in a Raleigh townhouse community last month.