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Reynolds Tobacco Wary of Fire-Safe Cigarettes

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With cigarette manufacturers scrambling to comply with New York state law requiring that all cigarettes sold there after June 28 be self-extinguishing, there is at least one company that, although willing to comply, is not pleased with some of the law's implications.

"We certainly agree with the goal of reducing fires caused by careless smoking, however, there really is no evidence to support that what New York State is asking us to do is the answer to this problem," Ellen Wallace, spokesperson for Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds Tobacco Co., told CSNews.

New York State accounted for 4.3 percent of U.S. cigarette sales in 2002, making it too large a market to abandon. But the costs and drawbacks of the new cigarettes are sufficient enough that the companies say they do not plan to offer them in the other 49 states.

New York's regulations call for all cigarettes sold in the state to be wrapped in the special paper, in which ultra-thin bands work like speed bumps to slow the burning of cigarettes that are not being puffed.

"We feel that there is no such thing as a fire-safe cigarette, because anything you light with a match is potentially very dangerous," said Wallace. "We really don't agree with the term 'fire-safe,' and overall, one of our biggest issues with this whole movement is that we don't want people to feel a false sense of complacency, and feel that these cigarettes will handle any type of smoking situation and go out."

Wallace added that there are so many different types of upholstery on the market, as well as other things that can catch on fire, that it is impossible to say that the "fireproof" cigarettes will go out under any and all circumstances across the board.

A lit cigarette that is dropped onto bedding or a sofa can smolder unobtrusively for as long as 30 minutes before a fire erupts. Approximately 900 Americans die each year and another 2,500 are injured by fires started by cigarettes, according to the American Burn Association and the federal government.

Wallace told CSNews that Reynolds Tobacco Co. would prefer to have one national standard rather than 50 different laws and 50 different standards for each state, because if that were the case, "our business would be very chaotic."

Another problem with the law, according to Wallace, is finding enough banded paper to meet supply. "From recent press reports, we might be the only company that's actually admitting to that, but that is a concern for us," said Wallace.

Nevertheless, Reynolds Tobacco does plan on complying with the New York State regulations, and will have product in the state to be sold on June 28.
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