Senate airs improved cigarette

It goes out by itself when left alone and could prevent fires

General Assembly

February 16, 2007|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,sun reporter

Some Maryland lawmakers want to require a new kind of cigarette that goes out by itself when unattended - a measure that backers say could save more than a dozen lives a year.

Sen. Mike Lenett, a Montgomery County Democrat, said the technology has long been available and is in use in six other states. The cigarettes don't cost more, and smokers can't tell the difference, he said.

"This isn't an anti-smoking bill. This is a public- and firefighter-safety bill," he said at a news conference yesterday.

The cigarettes work by including bands of less porous paper in the cigarette wrapper. When the cigarette is being smoked, they make no difference, but when it is left unattended, the tobacco hits the "speed bumps" and the cigarette extinguishes itself, Lenett said.

The bill had a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee yesterday. No hearing has been scheduled for a companion bill in the House of Delegates.

Maryland Fire Marshal Bill Barnard said 17 fire deaths in Maryland were directly attributable to unextinguished smoking materials, such as cigarettes, last year. There have been 175 such deaths in Maryland over the past 10 years, he said.

"Technology can help resolve this problem," he said.

Six other states and Canada have passed laws requiring the self-extinguishing cigarettes. Similar bills have been introduced in the Maryland legislature for the past few years, but they have failed. This time, though, the bill has the support of Gov. Martin O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot, state fire officials and others.

That includes Philip Morris U.S.A., one of the nation's largest cigarette manufacturers. Spokesman Bill Phelps said the company supports the bill as it was introduced because it uses standards in place in New York. He said similar bills passed by other states have not raised the price of cigarettes.

Kathy Hedrick, the mother of a volunteer firefighter in Prince George's County who was killed attempting to rescue a person trapped in a house fire caused by an unextinguished cigarette, said there is no excuse not to pass this bill.

Her son, Kenny, was killed in 1992, and the technology to make cigarettes safer existed then but was not in use.

"My child died because this technology was not put out in the public," she said. "I think it's very important we put it out today to save people like my child and yours."

andy.green@baltsun.com

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