JEFFERSON CITY — Although dozens of laws passed by Missouri lawmakers took effect at midnight Thursday, there's one law that will be delayed for a couple of years — fire-safe cigarettes.
The measure, passed in the spring, requires cigarettes sold in the state to be near self-extinguishing.
To sell down existing stock, cigarette retailers and wholesalers will have until Jan. 1, 2011, to bring inventory in line with the new law, State Fire Marshall Randy Cole said.
Two fatalities resulted from cigarette-related fires in 2007 in Missouri, Cole said. Another seven were injured and $2.5 million in property damage resulted from cigarette fires the same year. No deaths could be directly attributed to cigarettes that failed to extinguish during the last three years in Boone County, said Gale Blomenkamp, Boone County Fire Protection District division chief.
Under the new law, the state's Revenue Department could impose a fine of $100 per pack on retailers who sell the non-fire safe cigarettes. The law applies to all brands of cigarettes, not just those manufactured in the U.S.
A fire-safe cigarette is designed to self-extinguish, because of bands layered into the tube, said David Sutton, spokesperson for Phillip Morris. These bands, or "speed bumps" as Sutton called them, slow the burn rate of a cigarette when the lit end crosses over them. Cigarettes containing these "speed bumps" tend to go out quicker than those with traditional tubes.
Although no changes to the tobacco have been made, some smokers have complained about a change in taste or the nuisance of having to relight their cigarettes, said David Howard, spokesperson for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Most smokers become accustomed to changes and complaint calls subside, Sutton said.
R.J. Reynolds will begin producing only fire-safe cigarettes at the end of 2009, Howard said, and Phillip Morris hopes to make all of its cigarettes fire-safe by the first half of 2010, Sutton said. Phillip Morris began shipping only fire-safe cigarettes to Missouri in July.
All states except Wyoming have adopted fire-safe cigarette laws, though 16 states, including Missouri, have delayed implementation until 2010 or 2011, according to the national Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes.