Fire Safe Cigarettes Now Mandatory

Smoking-related fires are the number one cause of fire deaths in the US. New laws in Texas and Oklahoma could change this statistic by changing the way cigarettes are made.

"They've taken the paper on them and made it so that if the ash gets down to a certain point in the paper, then it will extinguish," said Captain Bob Johnson, Amarillo Fire Department. "Where in the past, cigarettes will burn all the way down to the filter."

"Madison's" convenience store received their first shipment of fire complaint cigarettes last week. Owner, Deana Perdue, says cigarettes sales at her store are still strong.

"I think that people that are going to smoke are going to smoke. And I don't think it's going to change. It's just going to make it a more safe bad habit," she said.

State officials say the law is not an anti-smoking campaign. They simply hope these cigarettes will help reduce the number of cigarette-ignited fires.

"If we can get cigarettes that will go out by themselves, then I think we are going to see a reduction in the number of fires around the Panhandle and we're definitely going to see a reduction in the number of fire deaths," Johnson said.

The look and taste of the cigarettes will remain unaltered, according to state officials. But the cigarette's added safety feature will come with a price.

"We had a price increase shortly before the fire safe cigarettes came on the market. And I felt like it was probably a precursor to the new regulations and requirements," Perdue said.

Under the new laws, all cigarettes sold in Texas and Oklahoma must be certified fire standard compliant. Wholesalers and distributors will be allowed to sell their existing inventory, only if it was produced before January 1, 2009.

"Just because we have fire safe cigarettes doesn't mean it's safe to smoke around oxygen and doesn't exclude the fact that you need working fire alarms," Johnson said.

If you are a smoker, firefighters say you can help prevent fires simply by using large, sturdy ash trays. You should also soak cigarette butts and ashes in water before throwing them away.