Fire-safe cigarette law takes effect Jan. 1

Article Published: Dec. 30, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Fire-safe cigarette law takes effect Jan. 1

North Carolina will join New York, California and Vermont with a new law regulating the sale of cigarettes.

As of Jan. 1, all cigarettes sold in North Carolina must meet fire-safe regulations, meaning the cigarette has a lower propensity to burn if left unattended.

Traditional technology keeps a cigarette burning even without puffing, and a cigarette can smolder for up to 45 minutes. During ignition tests, 90 percent to 100 percent of traditional cigarettes will cause fires within 10 minutes, according to the N.C. State Fire Marshal's Office.

The most common fire-safe technology used by cigarette manufacturers is making the paper thicker in places, which acts as a "speed bump" in slowing down the burning of a cigarette, reads a statement from the state fire marshal office.

"The establishment of fire-safe cigarettes in North Carolina is not an anti-smoking campaign," the statement read. "The state fire marshal's office is primarily concerned with fire safety and preventing deaths, injury and property loss due to cigarette ignited fires."

The N.C. Fire Incident Reporting System recorded 9,600 structure fires in 2005. Cigarettes, pipes and cigars were the largest heat source contributors to the fires, followed by smoking-related devices, such as matches and cigarette lighters.

Nearly 100 deaths and more than 800 injuries were reported to NCFIRS in 2005, 27 percent of which were firefighters.

The N.C. General Assembly passed house bill 1785, also referred to as "The Fire Safe Cigarette Act," in 2007. The primary sponsors were Verla Insko (D), of Orange County, Rick Glazier (D), of Cumberland County, and Tricia Ann Cotham (D), of Mecklenburg County. Pricey Harrison (D), of Guilford County was a co-sponsor.

The cigarettes will be identified on the package with the initials FSC near the UPC label.

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