Washington Proposes "Fire-Safe" Cigarette Law

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Washington Proposes "Fire-Safe" Cigarette Law

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Two Washington state lawmakers are proposing a law that would ban the sale or distribution of any cigarette that is not self-extinguishing, reported the Associated Press.

"We want to avoid fires caused by people smoking in bed or what-have-you," said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, who is sponsoring the Senate bill, told AP. "I think it's something that makes a lot of sense."

Rep. Geoff Simpson, D-Covington, has proposed similar legislation in the House.

Kohl-Welles said in the report she's sponsoring the bill at the request of fire chiefs. The need was underscored a couple of months ago when an elderly woman in Kohl-Welles' neighborhood accidentally started a fire with an unattended cigarette.

She considers self-extinguishing cigarettes a logical extension of public-safety laws that require sprinkler systems.

"When people smoke in an apartment, a nursing home, or even a single-family home, it could affect the lives of other people," she told AP.

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 700 to 800 people are killed each year in the United States by fires started by untended cigarettes.

Three states -- New York, California and Vermont -- already require self-extinguishing smokes. Tobacco companies last year rushed to market cigarettes wrapped in special ultra-thin paper with "speed bump" bands that inhibit burning unless a smoker draws in air, reported AP.
Some smokers in New York, the first state to require the cigarettes, have complained about their cigarettes going out.

"That may be one price they have to pay," Kohl-Welles said in the report. "It's an inconvenience and an annoyance, but you have to balance that with people's lives."

Spokesman Dana Bolden for Philip Morris USA said there should be a single, nationwide standard for such cigarettes. "We're afraid that there might be a patchwork of various state regulations," he told AP.