MCFRS News Release

Fire Safe Cigarette Bill Heads to Governor

State Senate approves measure to require sale of the cigarettes that could prevent fires

A bill that would support fire-safe cigarettes has been approved by the State Senate and is on its way to Governor O'Malley's desk.

The Maryland Senate passed House Bill 785 and Senate Bill 361 on Thursday, April 4, 2007. The bill, the Cigarette Fire Safety Performance Standard and Firefighters Safety Protection Act, requires the sale of fire-safe cigarettes in Maryland, which are considered safer because of an ability to self-extinguish, reducing the chance of fire.

Fire-safe cigarettes use a different design in the wrapping paper that results in the cigarette extinguishing itself when left unattended. Regular cigarettes continue to burn or smolder when left unattended.

Fire-safe cigarette laws have been passed in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, New Jersey, Utah and most recently, Kentucky. It is also law nationwide in Canada.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, several recent fires associated with improperly discarded smoking materials have resulted in several deaths, injuries, dozens of residents being displaced, and have caused millions of dollars in damage. Montgomery County Fire Chief Tom Carr testified in Annapolis on February 15, 2007 and again on March 7, 2007 in order to support the Cigarette Fire Safety Performance Standard and Firefighters Safety Protection Act. The Montgomery County legislative delegation overwhelming supported these efforts.

In the past two years, seven (7) out of nine (9) residential fire fatalities in Montgomery County have been the result of careless smoking and discarded smoking materials.

Last year Mrs. Leona Schwartz, age 83, a resident of the Highland House Apartment in Chevy Chase died from burns and smoke inhalation as result of fire that occurred on November 24, 2006. Careless smoking was to blame for the fire. Her husband survived.

Prior to Mrs. Schwartz two (2) others died in residential fires started by cigarettes, including Mary Louise Harrington, age 78, of Kensington who died on August 27 and on February 26, 2006 Mr. Francis Richard Deleo, age 84, of Rockville died of a result of injuries he sustained on February 9, 2006 from a fire ignited by a discarded cigarette.

The fire death situation was very similar in 2005. In April of that year, Silver Spring residents Jack and Lanita Siedel, age 75 and 91 respectively, died in their high-rise apartment by a fire started by a discarded cigarette, just days after Bert Wallace, age 79, sustained life-threatening injuries from a fire started by careless smoking in his high-rise apartment building in Gaithersburg. Mr. Wallace died about a month later. In September 2005, Valich Mossavi-Amin, age 93, was killed by a fire started discarded smoking materials in the living room of his Gaithersburg house.

Last legislative session (2006), Maryland considered legislation that advocated reduced-ignition strength ("fire-safe") cigarettes, but it did not pass. Many other states, including our own (Maryland), have been considering and are working to pass similar bills this year. A Reduced-ignition (or fire-safe) cigarettes mandate has been Montgomery County Fire Chief Tom Carr's highest legislative priority.

A recent preliminary report out of New York showed that the number of deaths caused by cigarette-ignited fires dropped significantly after implementation of that state's fire-safe cigarette requirement. In addition, a recent Harvard School of Public Health study found that the New York mandate had no negative effect on cigarette sales in that state and no significant effect on the health risks of smoking from the new cigarette technology. The research shows that consumers have accepted fire-safe cigarettes. In fact, the Harvard researchers found no valid reason why cigarette manufacturers should not sell fire-safe cigarettes all across the country.

Chief Carr notes, "Our elected Representative's action passing this legislation and the Governor's signature on this Bill will undoubtedly save lives. This has been our responsibility. Maryland will now be a safer place to live, work and enjoy."