N.Y. Might Require Safer Cigarettes
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A measure that could make New York the first state to require that all cigarettes be self-extinguishing was signed into law by Gov. George Pataki.
The ``fire-safe'' cigarette legislation is designed to reduce fires that happen when smokers fall asleep or otherwise handle a cigarette carelessly.
By mid-2003, all cigarettes sold in New York must be designed in such a way that they will go out after awhile if the smoker does not take a puff.
The governor, who announced the signing Thursday, said the law will prevent ``needless tragedies that can result from cigarette smoking.''
``Instead of dragging its feet, Big Tobacco must focus on producing and marketing only cigarettes that dramatically reduce the likelihood of causing fires,'' said Russ Haven of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Fire officials estimate that at least a third of the fire deaths in the state happened in blazes sparked by careless smoking.
A similar bill is pending in California. It would require fire-safe cigarettes a year earlier than the New York law.
The New York legislation is a reworked version of a bill Pataki vetoed in May. It gives the state more time to set up technical standards for the new cigarettes and, consequently, more time for tobacco companies to comply.
Unlike the original bill, the legislation also mandates that fire-safe cigarettes cannot be more toxic to smokers than conventional cigarettes.
The bill includes tougher penalties against cigarette bootlegging, which could become prevalent when conventional cigarettes are taken off the market in favor of the self-extinguishing variety.
Philip Morris spokesman Brendan McCormick said the company would prefer to see a single national standard for fire-safe cigarettes developed.
In July, Philip Morris began marketing Merit cigarettes that it says are more likely to self-extinguish than their regular counterparts. The cigarette uses a special kind of paper with bands at regular intervals containing compounds to induce cigarettes to stop burning.
McCormick said the tobacco company hopes its cigarette meets the New York standards.