New York’s New Fire Safety Standard for Cigarettes Will Save Lives and Should Be Implemented Nationwide

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jun. 28 2004

Washington, DC — Beginning today, New York law requires that all cigarettes sold in the state utilize self-extinguishing technology that reduces the risk cigarettes will ignite fires if left unattended. This is the world’s first fire safety standard for cigarettes, and it is a historic and long-overdue step to address the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States. New York state officials have said that most cigarette brands sold in the state are already complying with the law. Now that the tobacco companies have demonstrated that they can make cigarettes that meet New York’s fire-safety standard, it would be morally and legally indefensible for them not to apply this life-saving standard to all cigarettes they manufacture and sell in the United States and indeed worldwide.

If the tobacco companies continue to sell cigarettes outside of New York that do not utilize fire-safety technology, they should be held accountable in the courts for all the lives lost, bodies maimed and property damaged as a result of cigarette-caused fires. All Americans deserve the same level of protection from cigarette-caused fires that the people of New York will now receive. The next time a child or someone’s mother, father or loved one dies in a cigarette-caused fire, let tobacco company executives explain to the victim’s family why the cigarette that started the fire wasn’t manufactured in the same way as those now sold in New York.

Cigarettes are the leading cause of fire death in the United States, accounting for an estimated 30 percent of all fire deaths. Each year in the U.S., cigarette-caused fires result in about 1,000 deaths, 3,000 serious injuries and an estimated $4 billion in property losses and health care expenses. More than 100 of the victims are children and non-smokers.

Internal documents show that tobacco companies have known for decades how to manufacture a cigarette that reduces the risk of fires when left unattended and that is also acceptable to consumers. The industry’s failure to voluntarily apply this technology to the vast majority of cigarettes now on the market has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives, needless suffering and millions of dollars in property damage.

New York’s new fire-safety standard for cigarettes is the result of the Cigarette Fire Safety Act of 2000, sponsored by Assemblyman Pete Grannis and Senator Frank Padavan. We applaud Assemblyman Grannis and Senator Padavan for their leadership on this issue and the New York Department of State for implementing these strong regulations.

 

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