Nationwide sweep of fire-safe cigarette laws reaches Alaska

Published on July 19, 2007

Alaskans soon to be protected against cigarette-ignited fires

July 19, 2007 (Juneau, Alaska) — Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has extended the nationwide reach of fire-safe cigarettes by becoming the 15th governor this year – the 21st overall – to sign legislation mandating them. The new law will help prevent fire deaths, injuries, and property destruction.

“Cigarette-ignited fires are the leading cause of residential fire death,” said James M. Shannon, president of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), coordinator of the nationwide Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes. “With Governor Palin’s signature, we are one important step closer to requiring the tobacco companies to sell fire-safe cigarettes nationwide.”

So called “fire-safe” cigarettes are designed to self-extinguish if dropped or left unattended, making them less likely to ignite clothing, bedding, or other material.

“I am proud to sign this bill into law requiring the use of fire-safe cigarettes in Alaska. Not only does this directly benefit Alaska,it will benefit the nation as a whole,” said Governor Palin.

Alaskahas the sixth highest smoking rate in the country, so efforts to protect smokers and non-smokers in that state from devastating fire are critically important. 

“By requiring tobacco companies to sell only fire-safe cigarettes in Alaska, the legislature and Governor Palin will help to save lives statewide,” said Shannon. “We continue to ask tobacco companies to do the right thing and switch to fire-safe cigarettes without waiting for states to legislate such a simple, life-saving requirement. The tipping point is near.”

“Congratulations to Sen. Donnie Olson for championing this effort,” said Shannon. “Rep. Reggie Joule and Rep. Carl Gatto deserve recognition for their roles in this effort as well.”

“This bill could not have succeeded, however, without the strong and active support of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Alaska Fire Chiefs Association and the Alaska State Firefighters Association,” Shannon added. “These men and women know firsthand the destruction and human cost that cigarette fires wreak.”

Shannon particularly acknowledged the efforts of Rusty Belanger, Assistant State Fire Marshal, Warren Cummings, president of the Alaska Fire Chiefs Association and Jason Elson, chairman of the Legislative Committee for the Alaska Fire Chiefs Association.

States with fire-safe cigarette laws already in effect:  New York (2004), Vermont (2006), California (2007), and Oregon(2007).

States with laws on the books that have not yet taken effect:  Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Texas, and Utah.

Between 700 and 900 people die per year in the the result of fires caused by cigarettes according to NFPA. One quarter of those people killed – often including children and the elderly – are not the smoker.

The Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes, officially launched in March 2006, includes fire service members; medical and public health practitioners; advocates for consumers, the elderly, and people with disabilities; and others. Coalition members are committed to saving lives and preventing injuries by reducing the threat of cigarette-ignited fires. The Coalition has asked tobacco companies to start selling fire-safe cigarettes nationwide and is working to see fire-safe cigarette legislation passed in every state. For more information, please visit the Coalition's Web site.

Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1-617-984-7275