The above headline on the front page of the January 2, 2009, issue of USA TODAY was good news for the thousands of Americans who tend to fall asleep while smoking cigarettes. Despite the efforts of powerful tobacco lobbyists, individual states have found a way to circumvent federal legislation by passing laws that require the sale of self-extinguishing cigarettes in the individual states.

Such a cigarette is already available. When the burning tobacco in a fire-safe cigarette reaches one of the banded “speed bumps” in a cigarette, it will automatically extinguish itself. In 2004, New York became the first state to require fire-safe cigarettes and already has shown a decrease in smoking-related fire deaths. R.J. Reynolds will start making all of its cigarettes fire-safe by the end of 2009.

 

CENSORED IN ’79:

HOW THE TOBACCO LOBBY

KEEPS THE HOME FIRES BURNING

 

Thirty years ago, Mother Jones reported, in January 1979, how at least 4,900 people die in residential fires in the United States every year … and fires started by cigarettes are one of the major causes of fire fatalities. It was the Censored Story #22 of 1979.

Byron Halpin, at Johns Hopkins, who studied all home fires in Maryland between 1972 and 1977, reported that nearly 45% of the deaths he investigated were in fires started by cigarettes. A cigarette that would self-extinguish shortly after the last puff could prevent many of these fires. But most American cigarettes continue burning for 20 to 45 minutes after the last puff.

Aware that such a cigarette could be produced, some observers wondered why agencies concerned with fire safety hadn’t implemented such measures. Critics suggested that it is because of a “nicotine-stained” Congress that is more susceptible to the contributions and pressures of a powerful tobacco lobby than to the health and safety needs of the public.

     It was estimated that a self-extinguishing cigarette could save the lives of most of the 2,000 U.S. citizens burned to death each year in fires started by cigarettes.

 

     Conservatively speaking, if the mainstream media, which benefited handsomely from tobacco advertising, had widely exposed this nationwide problem back in 1979, more than 50,000 American lives could have been saved by now.  

 

Those who cannot remember the past 

are condemned to repeat it!

— George Santayana