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New York Public Interest Research Group: Cigarette Fire Safety Legislation (AB 178) on Governor Schwarzenegger’s Desk


NEW YORK, Sept. 27 -- The following is a memo to editorial board editors from Russell Sciandra of the Center for a Tobacco-Free New York and Russ Haven of New York Public Interest Research Group:

As two organizations that supported the nation’s first cigarette fire safety legislation in New York and closely monitored its implementation, we urge you to call upon Governor Schwarzenegger to sign into law the California cigarette fire safety bill (AB 178). The Governor has until early October to act.

While the law would not make cigarettes fire proof, it would dramatically reduce the number of cigarette fire deaths in the state each year. Newly available data shows a 48 percent reduction in fire deaths following implementation of New York’s regulations on June 28, 2004. (Please see supporting materials by visiting

There are only two opponents on record against the California legislation: RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and the California Manufacturers & Technology Association. None of their arguments, all of which were made in opposing the New York law, hold water:

-- The regulations will require little money to implement (New York’s done the costly work of developing the regulatory standard);

-- Tax revenues in New York have not been affected by the law. The Harvard School of Public Health found “no decline in cigarette sales or excise tax payments since the standard went into effect.” (The HSPH report on the cigarette fire safety standard can be reviewed at

-- Since the New York, Vermont, Canadian, and proposed California standards are identical, there’s no risk of a “patchwork” of different regulations for industry to meet. The same cigarettes can be sold in all four jurisdictions.

Right now, it’s as if cars sold in New York have airbags-and the automakers refuse to sell cars with airbags in the other states. Federal legislation establishing an effective nationwide standard would be nice, but it’s unlikely any time soon. In the past 30 years Congress has refused to pass a cigarette fire safety law-as a result of the hammerlock the tobacco industry has successfully applied to virtually all cigarette legislation.

California should join New York, Vermont & Canada in adopting a cigarette fire safety standard. No child, senior, firefighter or smoker should die from a fire that could have been avoided; municipal governments, hospitals, burn centers, property owners and insurers can all find uses for the money saved in avoided costs.

Moreover, given its size and location, California could well be the “tipping point” on this issue nationally. Perhaps if enough states with enough population adopt this standard, manufacturers will decide they can make more money selling just one kind of cigarette throughout the U.S.-the kind that reduces the threat of fire.

It’s rare that legislation can have such an immediate life- saving impact. We urge your editorial page to write in support of this important legislation.


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