Early numbers show positive results in reducing cigarette related fire deaths in NY

New York has seen a significant reduction in cigarette related fire deaths since the implementation of the Fire-Safe Cigarette (FSC) law in mid 2004, despite somewhat unique characteristics of the cigarette market in New York (counterfeit cigarettes, internet and interstate sales to avoid high taxes, availability of non-FSC cigarettes in bordering states until their laws are in effect)

There were 24 cigarette fire deaths per year in New York in 2006-2007 (the first full year when it should not have been possible to legally buy a non-compliant cigarette in New York), a one-third (35%) decline from 38 per year in 2002-2003.These early numbers are extremely positive. In another 10 years, we should be able to see the full impact of fire-safe cigarette design in reduced fire deaths and losses.

New York State smoking materials fires (2000-2009)

Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes, based on February 2011 statistics from the New York Office of Fire Prevention.

History of the New York State Fire-Safe Cigarette Law
by Russ Haven, Legislative Counsel for the New York Public Interest Research Group

New York State was the first state to enact a cigarette fire safety law.  The New York Statute required the Office of Fire Prevention and Control to develop a fire safety standard for cigarettes.  The New York regulatory process took three and one half years. New York’s regulation was finalized and published in late December 2003 and became effective on June 28, 2004.

As the first state to adopt a cigarette fire safety standard, New York has recognized its responsibility to ensure that the law realizes its full potential to prevent cigarette fires, deaths, injuries and property loss.  Accordingly, the Governor and Legislature have ensured that the state’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control have had sufficient resources to develop, implement and monitor the law.

Based on discussions with OFPC staff, New York State has had 4 full time equivalent staff (“FTEs”) in the field conducting work to monitor and enforce the cigarette fire safety law at retail outlets across the state.  Staff with New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance check for cigarette fire safety markings when they inspect cigarettes for tax stamps.  Taxation and Finance staff do not add to the cigarette fire safety program budget. 

Staffing costs in New York to administer the cigarette fire safety law additionally includes in the aggregate two FTEs at the main offices, including the time of the department chief and an agency counsel.

Since New York is the de facto national leader on this issue, it has expended considerable resources in outside laboratory fees for testing cigarettes to confirm that they meet the fire safety standard as stated in the certifications.  The laboratory costs are in the range of $400,000 per year.  Since the majority of states with cigarette fire safety laws will rely on the work of New York, costs associated with an extensive testing program will not be borne by states unless they choose to run a robust program.

New York monitors compliance by checking at retail locations. The state Office of Fire Prevention and Control also works with local fire departments to collect data on suspected cigarette fires, including checking cigarettes collected as evidence at the scene of a fire. Amendments to New York’s statute signed into law in August 2006, will lead to more detailed, stringent protocols for investigation and follow up to fires suspected of being caused by cigarettes. The amendments also will give OFPC the ability to proceed against sellers and manufacturers through administrative proceeding.