WASHINGTON — When lobbyist Michael Baroody first staked out his opposition to state rules requiring the sale of "fire safe" Cigarettes, it didn't get much ...
WASHINGTON — When lobbyist Michael Baroody first staked out his opposition to state rules requiring the sale of "fire safe" Cigarettes, it didn't get much attention — most states hadn't even consideRed such a law.
Seven years later, 11 states have mandated that all Cigarettes sold within their borders meet fire-safe standards, meaning they're designed to go out if dropped or set aside.
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The latest is Minnesota, where the governor signed the legislation Monday. Similar bills have been introduced in More than a dozen other state legislatures.
"We're going to have a fire-safe cigarette standard in the United States because the states pushed this," said Jim Shannon, a former congressman who heads the National Fire Protection Association.
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The federal legislation did not pass in the last Congress. Its House sponsor, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., plans to reintroduce the bill later this year, his office says. A Senate version, introduced last year by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has not been reintroduced. Durbin's office did not respond to requests for comment on whether he would sponsor the legislation again or support Baroody's nomination to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Maine State Fire Marshal John Dean, president of the National Association of State Fire Marshals, says tobacco companies are intent on moving cigarette regulation to the federal level so they can exert More influence and water down any nationwide standard.
Hank Cox, a spokesman for the National Association of Manufacturers, said that Baroody's opposition to state laws on fire-safe Cigarettes "was neither here nor there in terms of the specific issue of Cigarettes." Rather, he said, it reflected the association's belief that states shouldn't be setting safety standards for any product.
Altria, the parent company of cigarettemaker Philip Morris, holds a seat on the board of the National Association of Manufacturers. Philip Morris, like the association, supports federal legislation that would let the CPSC set requirements for fire-safe Cigarettes and pre-empt state standards.
"We have a serious problem of our country being balkanized into 50 different little regulatory fiefdoms," Cox said. So it's logical, he added, to argue that this sort of regulation should be done at the federal level by the CPSC.
Baroody's early lobbying on behalf of the association against fire-safe cigarette rules is haunting his nomination by President Bush to head the CPSC, which could be responsible for setting those requirements nationally.
Baroody declined to comment on the cigarette issue in advance of his confirmation hearing.
Tobacco industry officials have noted previously that fire-safe Cigarettes can still ignite trash or furniture. They argued that the best way to cut cigarette fires is by raising public awareness so smokers will be More careful. "Calling these products 'fire safe' is not accurate," David Howard, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds, said last year.
Independent studies have found fire-safe Cigarettes are far less likely to ignite furniture and other household items.
Shannon says fire safety groups support a federal standard, but they doubt Congress will act. "We'll get a (de facto) national standard a lot quicker by working through the states than we will at the CPSC with Baroody as chair," he said.