Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 120
03/31/2006 01:00 PM JUDICIARY
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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HB 413 - BURNING CAPABILITY OF CIGARETTES 2:44:48 PM REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 413, "An Act relating to the burning capability of cigarettes being sold, offered for sale, or possessed for sale; and providing for an effective date." [Before the committee was CSHB 413(STA).] 2:45:06 PM REPRESENTATIVE REGGIE JOULE, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, explained that HB 413 relates to slowing/snubbing the burn of cigarettes. He informed the committee that New York, California, Washington, Vermont, and Massachusetts have passed laws to require that cigarettes be packed differently and utilize rolling paper with what he referred to as "speed bumps." These speed bumps would cause the cigarette, when not actively being smoked, to extinguish. Therefore, this would save lives and avoid property damage. REPRESENTATIVE JOULE relayed that the college intern in his office, Mikayla Saito, has conducted research which indicates that self-snubbing cigarettes were developed in 1932. For whatever reason, the federal government has failed to utilize this technology, and therefore individual states are taking action. Additionally, in 2003, the entire country of Canada adopted the requirements regarding the burning capability of cigarettes. Representative Joule emphasized that HB 413 doesn't change the composition of the cigarette or add to the cost of its production. In conclusion, Representative Joule urged the passage of HB 413. 2:48:25 PM WARREN CUMMINGS, President, Alaska Fire Chiefs Association (AFCA); Fire Chief, City of Fairbanks, provided the following testimony: The Alaska Fire Chiefs Association, the largest membership of fire service managers in Alaska, is dedicated to serving the needs and issues that face Alaska's fire service. We would like to inform you that [the AFCA] ... strongly supports the Fire Safe Cigarette Act - [HB 413] - and encourage your yes vote when this legislation comes before you on this Committee and the House floor. [House Bill 413] will prohibit the sale, manufacture, or distribution of cigarettes in Alaska that do not meet fire safe standards established by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths in Alaska. From 1995-2004, careless smoking, as the fire cause, resulted in 27.6 percent of all fire deaths in Alaska. This type of fire killed 45 people in Alaska during the past 10 years. These costs are simply too great. Fortunately, an effective solution to this problem lies within your reach. California, New York and Vermont have already passed similar legislation to protect their residents. We hope that you will do your part to accomplish the same in Alaska. On behalf of the 144 members of the Alaska Fire Chiefs Association, we thank you for considering our support, and we hope that you will vote yes on HB 413 - a life- saving piece of legislation. 2:50:45 PM CAROL REED, Alaska Fire Standards Council (AFSC), provided the following testimony: The Alaska Fire Standards Council represents the public, industry, and the fire service in matters of fire training and safety standards. The members represent all geographic areas of the state of Alaska. The [AFSC] ... unanimously supports HB 413. In our professional experience we have seen all too many fires caused by careless ... use of cigarettes, many resulting in fire fatalities. Over the past 10 years, 24 percent of all fatal fires in Alaska were caused by the careless use of cigarettes. This is the leading cause of fire deaths in Alaska. The (indisc.) number of fatal fires would have been avoided with the reduced burning capability cigarettes, as noted in HB 413. We ask you to take a significant step for ... fire and life safety by passing this important bill. 2:52:46 PM GARY POWELL, Director State Fire Marshal, Central Office, Division of Fire Prevention, Department of Public Safety (DPS), began by relaying the department's support of HB 413. He echoed earlier testimony regarding the problem of fires being started from careless cigarette [smokers]. [This legislation provides] the means to address that problem. He offered his understanding that 24-26 percent of Alaska's fire fatalities are caused by cigarettes. However, often those who die in the fire are not smokers themselves. Mr. Powell acknowledged that this matter could be addressed through regulation of the items that are ignited, but he opined that it would be an overwhelming amount of regulation. Reducing the burning capability of cigarettes will result in far fewer fires [being caused by cigarettes]. Mr. Powell surmised that there are not too many valid arguments in opposition to this. 2:55:39 PM RUSS HAVEN, Legislative Counsel, New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), highlighted that the NYPIRG took the lead in lobbying for [a similar] New York state statute and closely monitored and participated in the almost three-and-a- half-year regulatory process to achieve what's been similarly proposed via HB 413. The standard in HB 413 is the same as that of New York, Vermont, California, and Canada. The change required under this proposal is inexpensive, will go practically unnoticed by the consumer, and will have no impact on tobacco sales in terms of the tax revenues. The preliminary data regarding fire deaths from cigarettes indicates that there has been a 48 percent drop in cigarette fire deaths over previous years. More importantly, as smokers are driven inside during the winter months, one would observe more fires, but that wasn't the case after New York's cigarette fire safety law was enacted. MR. HAVEN clarified that the technology consists of using a different wrapping paper that has slightly thicker bands around the cigarette barrel that cause an unattended cigarette reaching this band to stop the burning. The aforementioned makes tremendous sense, especially given that cigarettes are the leading cause of fire deaths across the nation. Mr. Haven encouraged the legislature to pass HB 413. He then pointed out that committee packets should include a fact sheet that provides answers to some of the basic questions about "reduced ignition propensity" laws and regulations. MR. HAVEN characterized the reduced ignition propensity laws and regulations as a win-win situation. And because Congress has been far too close to the tobacco industry, he said he didn't expect anything positive from Congress. Therefore, the hope is that as more states pass these laws, the industry will be encouraged to produce fire safe cigarettes for the entire country. Mr. Haven opined that although these aren't fireproof cigarettes, they greatly reduce the risk of fire and will likely help in the reduction of [all types] of fires. He urged the committee to visit the fire safe cigarettes web site, which includes a video of a fire marshal comparing a standard incendiary cigarette and a fire safe compliant cigarette. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT inquired as to how long New York has had the fire safe compliant cigarettes. MR. HAVEN informed the committee that the regulation went into effect June 28, 2004. However, he noted that many of the tobacco companies shifted production to these cigarettes earlier than the effective date. He further noted that retailers were allowed to sell off any old cigarettes with a tax stamp prior to the effective date. Mr. Haven characterized it as a seamless transition for wholesalers, retailers, and manufacturers. In further response to Representative Kott, Mr. Haven specified that a February 2005 Harvard School of Public Health study found that the fire safe cigarettes aren't any more harmful to the smoker than a regular cigarette. He noted that the fact sheet attached to his testimony specifies the web site for the document. 3:04:22 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOULE said that he would provide that information to the committee as well as other information that has been mentioned. ANDREW McGUIRE, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), opined that [fire-safe cigarettes] are an idea whose time has come. He informed the committee that legislation similar to HB 413 is likely to become law in Illinois in the next few weeks. Furthermore, similar legislation might pass in Maryland. He noted that nine other states, including Alaska, are considering [similar legislation]. He offered his belief that if a few more states pass similar legislation, cigarette companies will have no choice but to make fire-safe cigarettes for the entire nation. MR. McGUIRE relayed that fairly recently, Phillip Morris, the largest cigarette manufacturer in the U.S., stopped opposing state [fire safe cigarette] legislation; he therefore interpreted that to mean that the company will start making fire safe cigarettes for all states. However, other cigarette makers are continuing to oppose such legislation. In conclusion, he urged Alaska to join other states in passing fire safe cigarette legislation. REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON indicated that CSHB 413(STA) would be held over.