NFPA President opposes CPSC nominee

Published on May 1, 2007

Cites attempt to block fire-safe cigarettes as reason

May 1, 2007 - National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) President James M. Shannon today urged the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to reject the nomination of Michael Baroody for Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, saying in a letter that Mr. Baroody lacks the requisite willingness to stand up for consumer safety when those interests conflict with the interests of industry.

Shannon’s opposition to the nomination stems from Mr. Baroody’s efforts to convince then Governor Pataki to veto legislation in New Yorkrequiring fire-safe cigarettes. “The enactment of that New York fire safe cigarette statute was one of the signal events in the advancement of fire safety in America in the last century, and it is extremely troubling that one who would chair an agency so central to the safety of consumers in the United States would have attempted to thwart its becoming law,” said Shannon in his letter sent to the Senate Committee.

Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths in the United States.Smoking materials cause on average 35,000 structure fires each year in the United Statesresulting in between 700 and 900 deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage.

According to NFPA, the technology to reduce the ignition propensity of cigarettes and thus make them less likely to cause fires has existed for years, but federal legislation requiring that cigarettes be manufactured to meet a specific fire safety standard has been aggressively opposed by cigarette manufacturers. The fire service and safety advocates began pushing state legislation as a way to see this standard enacted. New Yorkbecame the first state to pass a fire-safe cigarette bill when their legislature acted in 2000. Mr. Baroody, representing the National Association of Manufacturers, wrote to Governor Pataki urging him to veto it.

Shannon wrote in his letter, “Mr. Baroody’s stated reasons for ‘strongly’ urging the veto were that state legislation would interfere with interstate commerce, but it was clear that the true strategy of the tobacco companies and their supporters then was to keep this proposal in Washington where they were confident that they could stifle its progress indefinitely. Mr. Baroody’s argument against New York’s acting must be seen for what it was, an effort to prevent any requirement that the companies make this life-saving change.”

Governor Pataki signed the bill into law and eight other states have followed suit. More than 20 other states are considering enacting fire-safe cigarette laws in this legislative session.

“Fire-safe cigarettes will ultimately be considered one of the most significant fire protection initiatives of recent decades. America deserves a Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission who will be a champion for safety, not one who gratuitously opposes a change that the fire service, the public health community and safety advocates all agree will dramatically reduce deaths and injuries caused by fire,” said Shannon.

NFPA is coordinating the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes. The Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes is a national group of fire service members, consumer and disabled rights advocates, medical and public health practitioners and others who are committed to saving lives and preventing injuries by reducing the threat of cigarette-ignited fires. Visit the Coalition Web site.

NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing. and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training and education.