Coalition urges Kentucky legislature to save lives by preventing cigarette-ignited fires

Published on February 15, 2007

Fire-safe cigarette bills now under consideration

February 15, 2007 (Frankfort, Ky.) — Fire service representatives from across the state joined members of the state legislature and the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes in the Capitol Rotunda today to urge passage of legislation (HB 278/SB 134) requiring tobacco companies to produce and sell only “fire-safe” cigarettes in Kentucky. Family members of Kentuckyresidents killed in fires caused by cigarettes also spoke in support of the bills.

“Hundreds of lives are lost each year to fires caused by smoking materials. Yet the technology for fire-safe cigarettes exists,” said Russ Sanders, former Louisville Fire Chief, now with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which is coordinating the Coalition. “Legislation being considered in Frankfortwill help stop the senseless loss of life caused by these fires.”

More bills are expected to be filed soon. Six states — New York, California, Illinois, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Vermont— have such laws already on the books, covering more than 25 percent of the American people. Canadarequires such cigarettes nationwide as well.

Kentucky,the nation’s second-largest tobacco-producing state, has the highest percentage of adult smokers in the country. It ranks ninth in cigarette-related fire deaths, according to NFPA.

According to the state fire marshal’s office, more than one third of all structure fires in the state of Kentuckyin recent years were caused by cigarettes. From January 1, 2004, to December 31, 2006, 70 percent of the fatalities, 56 percent of the civilian injuries, and 46 percent of the firefighter injuries suffered in structure fires in Kentuckywere from fires caused by cigarettes.

“Cigarettes have been, by far, the leading singe cause of structure fires that have resulted in civilian death, civilian and firefighter injury, and property loss,” said Frankfort Fire Chief Wallace Possich. “You never get used to the tragedy and devastation left behind by these fires.”

Family members of two Kentuckymen who died in separate cigarette-caused fires were also present at the news conference. Robert and Judy Long’s son, Jon, 39, of Simpsonville, died in a fire caused by a cigarette Sept. 30, 2006. Annie Adkins’ father, Joe Wurtenberger, 80, died in a cigarette-caused fire in LexingtonOct. 14, 2002.

“I’ve come today hoping that my story will help others — to prevent more horrible fires caused by cigarettes and prevent the pain that my family has lived through,” said Adkins.

According to the Coalition, the most common technology used to make fire-safe cigarettes is with special banded paper that slows down and extinguishes a cigarette’s burn if the smoker is not actually puffing on it. They are, therefore, proven less likely to cause fires than regular cigarettes.

“If the tobacco companies are not willing to produce fire-safe cigarettes on their own, the various state legislatures must act,” said Sanders.

Fire-safe cigarette legislation in Kentuckyis being sponsored by Sen. Gary Tapp (R‑Waddy) and Rep. Joni Jenkins (D-Shively).

“SB 134 is a step in the right direction in our efforts to save lives,” said Sen. Tapp. “It will also take out of harm’s way our most dedicated public servants — firefighters and EMS workers — by reducing the number of home fires.”

“This is not a partisan effort, this is not an anti-tobacco effort, this is a fire prevention effort,” said Rep. Jenkins. “We are here to protect the lives of our citizens and our first responders.”

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

Members of the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes as of February 1, 2007

  • American Association of Retired Persons
  • American Burn Association
  • American Collegeof Emergency Physicians
  • American Fire Sprinkler Association
  • American Health Care Association
  • American Society of Testing and Materials International
  • AMERIND Risk Management Corporation
  • Asian American Hotel Owners Association
  • Automatic Fire Alarm Association, Inc.
  • BostonSociety of Vulcans
  • Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association
  • Center for Campus Fire Safety
  • Center for Social Gerontology, Inc.
  • Firemen’s Association of the State of
    New York
  • FloridaAssociation of Fire & Life Safety Educators
  • Harvard Schoolof Public Health
  • Home Safety Council
  • IllinoisFire Inspectors Association
  • International Association of Arson Investigators
  • International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs
  • International Association of Fire Fighters
  • International Association of Hispanic Firefighters
  • International Code Council
  • International Fire Marshals Association
  • MassachusettsCall/Volunteer Firefighters Associations
  • MassachusettsCoalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes
  • Metropolitan Fire Chiefs
  • National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians
  • National Association of Hispanic Firefighters
  • National Association of State Fire Marshals
  • National Centerfor Assisted Living
  • National Fallen Firefighters Foundation
  • National Fire Protection Association
  • National Fire Sprinkler Association
  • National Native American Fire Chiefs Association
  • National Safety Council
  • National Volunteer Fire Council
  • PhoenixSociety for Burn Survivors
  • Polyurethane Foam Association
  • Property Casualty Insurers Association of America
  • Public Citizen
  • Safe Kids Worldwide
  • Trauma Foundation
  • Uniform Fire Code Association
  • WashingtonFire Chiefs
  • Western Fire Chiefs Association

Supporters/State Groups

  • Tobacco Free Kid