New Fire-Safe Cigarette Rules in N.Y.

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New Fire-Safe Cigarette Rules in N.Y.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The Pataki administration will issue a revised set of regulations on fire-resistant cigarettes within the next several weeks, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The rules will strengthen the testing regimen that cigarettes must pass to be legally sold in New York State, and a timetable outlined yesterday appeared to accelerate the appearance of the final regulations, the Associated Press reported. Comments by Secretary of State Randy Daniels in June were interpreted by smoking opponents as meaning the final regulations would not be issued until Dec. 31, 2003. They could not become law until 180 days after that.

Department of State spokesman Peter Constantakes said Tuesday the state needs "several weeks" more to weigh comments made since its draft regulations were put out earlier this year. Once those revised rules are finalized, following a comment period of at least 30 days, they would take effect six months later. The timing is important, smoking opponents say, because the tobacco industry is almost certain to challenge the rules in court once they formally take effect. Knowing that, the Department of State should put out the final rules soon to move the process forward and prepare for litigation, said Russ Sciandra of the Center for a Tobacco-Free New York.

Sciandra's group and the New York Public Interest Research Group on Monday complained that delay in issuing the final rules plays into what they believe is a tobacco industry strategy of drawing out the process.

However, the Department of State and its Office of Fire Prevention and Control said it takes time to consider the 7,500 pages of comments received from the tobacco and convenience store industries, which have opposed the measure since it was introduced by the state Legislature and Gov. George Pataki in 2000. The law requires cigarettes sold in New York to be wrapped in lower-ignition paper. The paper must burn at a lower temperature than the wrapping paper now commonly used and must go out within a few minutes if not puffed on. The law was designed to reduce the number of fires caused by careless smoking, typically where smokers fall asleep and lit cigarettes ignite clothing, furniture or bedding.

Among the tobacco industry comment on the rules came from Philip Morris, which dislikes the testing regimen to be used by the state to show that cigarette paper meets the self-extinguishing standard. Philip Morris has proposed a different system. Philip Morris spokesman Brendan McCormick said the company believes it has offered constructive proposals to the state about implementing a safer cigarette paper requirement and wants a "reasonable and effective" regulation.

Philip Morris already manufactures a lower "ignition propensity" cigarette paper for its Merit brand. The different paper will not change the toxicity of the cigarettes or reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases faced by smokers.