Safer cigarettes promised earlier

Maker to sell only self-extinguishing type as of April 1

December 24, 2007|By John Fritze

A leading tobacco manufacturer has voluntarily agreed to sell only self-extinguishing cigarettes in Maryland three months before a state law would have required it to do so, according to Baltimore City officials.

Philip Morris USA will sell the new cigarettes - which experts say are less likely to cause fires - starting April 1. The decision comes two months after Mayor Sheila Dixon's administration proposed requiring companies to sell the safer cigarettes.

"The announcement by Philip Morris USA is a step in the right direction," Dixon said in a statement Friday. "I call on the other tobacco companies to make the same commitment because we want to avoid as many fires as possible."

The General Assembly approved a law this year that will require cigarettes sold in Maryland to extinguish themselves if they are left unattended. But the measure does not take effect until July 1. City officials said 16 residents have died in fires caused by cigarettes this year and that three months could make a big difference.

"It's quite possible that by implementing this sooner we are going to save lives," said Baltimore's health commissioner, Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein. "We've very interested to see whether the other companies will match Philip Morris' commitment."

Sharfstein said the city may still adopt the regulation requiring the safer cigarettes from all companies.

A spokesman for Philip Morris said the company will distribute the newer cigarettes statewide, not just in Baltimore, because of the way its distribution works. Non-self-extinguishing cigarettes distributed before April 1 may still be sold by retailers until supplies of those products run out.

"This helps address all the concerns of the parties in Baltimore," said David Sylvia, a Philip Morris spokesman. "We just made a business decision to do it."

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