by Kirby Gibbs
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - 2008 saw cities like Nacogdoches put public smoking bans into place, and there's talk that 2009 could see a statewide ban. But in the meantime a different cigarette law has gone into effect that may reduce the amount of fires that happen throughout East Texas.
A proposed statewide smoking ban has been the focus of a lot of attention in Texas, but another smoking law has gone into effect. As of yesterday, all cigarettes being shipped into Texas, must be in compliance with the new fire safe manufacturing process.
According to Jerry Haggins, the spokesperson for the Texas Department of Insurance,which oversees the State Fire Marshall's Office, says, "Retailers have one year to sell their old stack and starting this time next year the state fire marshall's office will begin enforcing the law by inspecting retail establishments to make sure they're selling the right cigarettes."
The new cigarettes will help cut down on the number of fires in Texas that are caused by cigarettes. Haggins told KTRE that there was a great need for such a regualtion because fires caused by unattended cigarettes were costing a lot of money and a lot of lives.
"The most recent data we have for 2006 for Texas shows that there were almost 1,900 fires caused by cigarettes and 500 of those were house fires and there were 10 fatalities associated with those fires. And there were also $14 million in insurance losses because of these fires.
So how is the new FSC Cigarette supposed to work?
Assistant Fire Marshall of Lufkin, Captain Steve McCool, said, "The cigarette has 2 to 3 different bands of paper that wrap around the cigarette in addition to the wrapper that is already there that is less porous, so when the the cigarette burns down to that piece of paper, oxygen isn't allowed to get to it as readily and it extinguishes if it is not being smoked at that time."
In fact, the paper is the only thing that's different about these cigarettes, but some critics still complain that they smell worse and burn out before the smoker is done smoking. But Captain McCoon says, there is a bigger picture that smokers should realize.
"The lives that can be saved as a result of these new type cigarettes will be well worth it."
The new fire standard compliant cigarettes will self extinguish 90% of the time when not being smoked, whereas the older cigaretets continued to burn all the way down 98% of the time, when they were left unattended. Texas is one out of 21 states that have fire-safe cigarette laws.