June 24, 2007
"Fire-safe" cigarettes

No matter how obsessively one follows the Lege, there's always a few interesting bills that make it through completely under the radar.

Legislators couldn't agree to ban smoking in public places this session. But they did mandate that all cigarettes sold in Texas by 2010 be designed to snuff out after the last puff.

"The reality is the technology is such that you can have safer burning cigarettes that kind of extinguish themselves," said Sen. Royce West, the Dallas Democrat who helped carry House Bill 2935 to the governor's desk. "We should take advantage of it."

Texas isn't quite blazing a trail. New York, which has required "fire-safe cigarettes" since 2004, was the trendsetter. Its legal standard has become the boilerplate for 15 other states, affecting nearly half of the American public.

The cigarettes employ two or three bands of special paper that act as tiny firewalls to self-extinguish if the user isn't actively smoking.

"Texas is a huge boost to our initiative in that it brings us another big state and another big indication that (someday) every state in the country will be protected by this legislation," said Lorraine Carli, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes, run by the National Fire Protection Association.

Texas will start affixing tax stamps only to fire-safe cigarettes as of Jan. 1, 2009, and any retail stock of non-fire-safe cigarettes remaining could not be sold after 2010.


According to a 2005 Harvard School of Public Health report, cited in Connecticut legislative research documents, the new cigarettes didn't affect prices or sales in New York.

Carli's group says smoking-related fires kill 700 to 900 people a year, about a quarter of them people other than the person wielding the fateful cigarette.

Smoking is blamed for nearly 4,000 structure fires in Texas from 2000 to 2005, according to the state fire marshal's office. Fifty people died in those blazes, making smoking the most common cause of fatalities in accidental fires.

Seems like a reasonable enough thing to me. The technology exists, it won't cost any extra money, and it may help prevent a few fires and deaths from those fires. I'm not sure what the argument against this is, but for what it's worth, the final version of HB2935 passed the House on a 131-4 vote, with Bonnen, Crabb, Harper-Brown, and Riddle voting No. It passed the Senate unanimously, as is often the case.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 24, 2007 to That's our Lege