Coalition urges Mass legislature to reduce cigarette ignited fires and save lives

Published on May 2, 2006
Fire-Safe Cigarette Bill Now Under Consideration 

May 2, 2006 — Firefighters from around the state joined the newly-formed Massachusetts Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes to urge the Legislature to pass a bill (HB 1914/SB 2403) requiring tobacco companies to produce and sell only “fire-safe” cigarettes in Massachusetts. The Coalition, which was launched at a state house news conference today, is a group of fire service members, consumer and disabled rights advocates, health practitioners and others, who have previously worked informally to save lives and prevent injuries by reducing the threat of cigarette-ignited fires.

“Hundreds of lives are lost each year in fires caused by smoking materials. Yet the technology for fire-safe cigarettes exists,” said National Fire Protection Association President James M. Shannon. “Legislation being considered on Beacon Hill will help stop the senseless loss of life caused by these fires and will not cost the state of Massachusetts anything.”

“So far this year, at least seven deaths in Massachusetts are believed to have been the result of cigarette-ignited fires,” said Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan, “These fires not only kill, they injure smokers and firefighters and cause millions of dollars in property damage.”

According to the Coalition, fire-safe cigarettes are made with special paper that slows down and extinguishes a cigarette’s burn if the smoker is not actively puffing on it and are less likely to cause fires than regular cigarettes.

Acknowledging the presence of the Kearney family from Boston who lost six people in one of the city’s deadliest fires, Representative Rachel Kaprielian (Watertown) said, “The Kearney bill will save families and is long overdue. We can do something to prevent others from having to endure the pain and suffering the Kearney’s must live with everyday.”

Fire-safe cigarette mandates have passed in California, New York, and Vermont (and for all of Canada). A similar bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature in Illinois. Several other states including New Hampshire and Rhode Island are considering such legislation.

“I was pleased to lead the Senate effort to pass this bill,” said Senator Stephen Brewer (Barre). “The time for Massachusetts to join this movement is now.”

Cigarette-ignited fires are the leading cause of home fire deaths in the United States, killing 700 to 900 people annually. Additionally, thousands of victims suffer devastating burn and lung injuries, and property losses total millions of dollars each year. One in four cigarette fire casualties is not the smoker and many of the victims are children.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes includes American Academy of Pediatrics, MA chapter; American Burn Association; American Cancer Society; American Heart Association; American Lung Association of MA; American Lung Association of Norfolk County; American Lung Association of Western MA; Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, NE Chapter; Boston Public Health Commission; Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Fire Chiefs Association of MA; Fire Prevention Officers Association of MA; Firefighters Burn Fund, Victoria, B.C.; GlaxoSmithKline; Harvard University Health Services; Institute for Health and Recovery; International Association of Black Firefighters; Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians; Massachusetts Association of Health Boards; Massachusetts Association of Health Nurses; Massachusetts Association of Health Plans; Massachusetts Association of Public Health Nurses; Massachusetts Call/Volunteer Firefighters Association; Massachusetts Consumers Coalition; Massachusetts Medical Society; Massachusetts Nurses Association; Massachusetts Public Health Association; Massachusetts Pharmacists Association; MASSPIRG; Massachusetts Prevention Center of Greater Western MA; The Medical Foundation; National Fire Protection Association; Natick Kiwanis Club; New England Coalition for Cancer Survivorship; The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors; Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts; Quincy Firefighters Association 792; Statewide Coordinating Committee of the MA Tobacco Control Program; Shriners Burn Hospital, Boston; Tobacco Control Research Center; Tobacco Free Mass Coalition; Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, Smoke-Free Kids, Inc.