Legislature(2007 - 2008)CAPITOL 17
05/02/2007 03:00 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 84 - TESTING & PACKAGING OF CIGARETTES CHAIR OLSON announced that the final order of business would be CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 84(JUD), "An Act relating to the testing and packaging of cigarettes to be sold, offered for sale, or possessed in this state; and providing for an effective date." 3:38:54 PM SENATOR DONNY OLSON, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, relayed that as a doctor in rural Alaska, he has seen the devastation that fires can cause, and offered an example wherein one of the victims, a young boy, had burns on his feet and suffered from smoke inhalation. He mentioned that his staff would be presenting SB 84. 3:40:18 PM DENISE LICCIOLI, Staff to Senator Donny Olson, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, explained that SB 84 mandates that only self-extinguishing cigarettes can be sold in Alaska, and establishes the testing and certification requirements to ensure that only self-extinguishing cigarettes are sold in Alaska. Although no cigarette can ever be called safe, so-called self- extinguishing or "fire safe" cigarettes are "reduced ignition propensity cigarettes." Referring to a picture in members' packets of a self-extinguishing cigarette, she pointed out the embedded bands, called "speed-bumps," in the cigarette paper that will cause the cigarette to extinguish if it is not actively being smoked. These cigarettes are designed to be less likely than conventional cigarettes to ignite soft furnishings such as a couch or mattress. MS. LICCIOLI relayed that SB 84 also provides for the marking of cigarette packaging, in an approved and easily identifiable manner, to indicate that they are fire-safe. Cigarettes are the leading cause of home fire fatalities, both in Alaska and in the United States, and the most common material that is ignited first in a home fire is the material found in mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture, and floor coverings. A typical scenario for a home fire is when a cigarette is lit and forgotten or dropped by the smoker, and the cigarette can smolder for hours before it flares up into a full blaze. She noted that a recent fire in Juneau, about which a newspaper article is included in members' packets, fit that scenario. One-fourth of all victims of smoking-material fire fatalities are not the smoker whose cigarette started the fire, and over one-third of those victims are children. MS. LICCIOLI said that the risk of dying in a residential structure fire caused by smoking rises with age: 38 percent of fatal smoking-material fire victims are age 65 or older. The most common technology used by cigarette manufactures for reduced cigarette ignition propensity (RCIP) cigarettes is to make the paper thicker in places to slow down the burn. If such a cigarette is left unattended, when the burn reaches one of the thicker places, or speed bumps, the cigarette self extinguishes. Self-extinguishing cigarettes meet established fire safety performance standards. Legislation similar to SB 84 has been enacted in nine states: New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, California, Illinois, Utah, Kentucky, and Oregon. A fire safe cigarette mandate has also been approved for all of Canada. MS. LICCIOLI relayed that SB 84 is supported by the Alaska Fire Chiefs Association (AFCA), the Alaska State Firefighters Association (ASFA), and the Department of Public Safety (DPS), Division of Fire Prevention. Senate Bill 84 is an important piece of legislation that will save lives as well as reduce injuries and damage to property in Alaska, she concluded. 3:44:33 PM REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN questioned whether self-extinguishing cigarettes are currently being produced by the tobacco industry and are therefore readily available. MS. LICCIOLI said yes. In response to a question, she said that there is a transition provision in the bill that allows wholesalers and retailers to continue selling their old cigarette stock for a period of time after which they would need to restock with self-extinguishing cigarettes because those would be the only kind of cigarettes that could be sold in Alaska. In response to another question, she offered her understanding that the price of cigarettes would remain the same because the cost of producing self-extinguishing cigarettes is negligible. REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN asked whether the thicker bands of paper would be more hazardous to smoke. SENATOR OLSON relayed his understanding that they would not be. In response to comments and a question, he acknowledged that past attempts to make cigarettes self extinguish by altering the make up of the tobacco used proved unsuccessful because those cigarettes were unpalatable, and one such attempt even resulted in an increase in a particular lung disease. REPRESENTATIVE BUCH asked how the provisions of the bill will be enforced, and what the date for "mandatory sale" is. MS. LICCIOLI replied that enforcement would fall under the purview of the Department of Revenue (DOR), which regulates the sale of cigarettes in Alaska. SENATOR OLSON mentioned that the DOR's fiscal note reflects the enforcement provisions of the bill. In response to comments and a question, he offered his understanding that there isn't any opposition to the bill, and that even the tobacco industry is in favor of it. REPRESENTATIVE LeDOUX questioned why the tobacco industry doesn't just produce self-extinguishing cigarettes without the law having to require it, particularly given that some states can sell nothing else. MS. LICCIOLI surmised that like other behaviors addressed by various laws, most people simply won't do something until it's required. REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN referred to proposed AS 18.74.160, which addresses penalties for violations, and asked whether people will still be able to purchase non self-extinguishing cigarettes on the Internet. MS. LICCIOLI suggested that a representative of the DOR could better address that question. REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN questioned whether a resident of Alaska would be considered a criminal if he/she purchased cigarettes for personal use from a state which does not require that only self-extinguishing cigarettes be sold. 3:53:09 PM JOHANNA BALES, Excise Audit Manager, Anchorage Office, Tax Division, Department of Revenue (DOR), replied that according to her interpretation of SB 84, an Alaskan citizen purchasing non self-extinguishing cigarettes for personal use from outside the state would not be subject to the [civil] penalties provided in the bill, though under existing law pertaining to the taxation of cigarettes, criminal tax penalties would apply to any unlicensed individual who brings any kind of [tobacco product] into the state [for the purpose of reselling it]. SENATOR OLSON characterized SB 84 as a very important bill that will save lives and property. REPRESENTATIVE BUCH said he appreciates that the bill provides for a transitional period and doesn't penalize people for purchasing cigarettes for personal use from outside Alaska. REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER, in response to Representative LeDoux's question, suggested that perhaps many smokers don't like having their cigarettes go out. REPRESENTATIVE LeDOUX remarked that the title of bill does not seem consistent with the body of the bill; specifically, the title indicates that the bill is in part about cigarettes "possessed in this state", and yet the DOR has indicated that merely possessing non self-extinguishing cigarettes for personal use would not subject a person to the penalties provided in the bill. MS. LICCIOLI shared her understanding that the phrase, "possessed in this state" is meant to account for non self- extinguishing cigarettes that wholesalers and retailers possess during the transition period. REPRESENTATIVE LeDOUX said she is still concerned about this apparent discrepancy and is not completely certain that that language needs to be in the title. SENATOR OLSON shared his understanding that to be in violation of the bill, one must possess the cigarettes with the intent to sell. REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN surmised that a prohibition against mere possession couldn't be enforced. 3:59:41 PM RAYMOND B. BIZAL, Regional Manager, Western Region, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), relayed that he would be speaking in support of SB 84. Referring to the fact that nine states have adopted similar legislation, he calculated that this means that over one-fourth of the U.S. population is now protected by this type of law. Four other states have similar legislation waiting to be signed by their governors - Iowa, Maryland, Montana, and New Jersey. However, because most of the aforementioned laws have only now become effective, statistics for the most part are not yet available. In New York, though, with its law having been in place since 2004, statistics pertaining to the first six months that that law has been in place indicate that there has been no reduction in cigarette tax revenue, but that there has been a one-third reduction in cigarette-related fire fatalities and an even higher reduction in the number of cigarette-related fires. MR. BIZAL remarked that Alaska is not alone in considering legislation pertaining to self-extinguishing cigarettes: this year, 22 state legislators introduced bills similar to SB 84. Consideration of this issue is widespread because it will make a difference, he opined, adding that nearly 1,000 people needlessly die each year in the U.S. because of fires started by cigarettes; such fires injure many more people and cause millions of dollars in property damage. Cigarettes that comply with the fire safety standard mandated by SB 84 actually reduce the likelihood of fire. Passing SB 84 will save lives in Alaska, reduce injuries, and reduce property damage, he concluded. 4:02:20 PM STEVEN "RUSTY" BELANGER, Assistant State Fire Marshal, Division of Fire Prevention, Department of Public Safety (DPS), relayed that the division gives its full support to SB 84. This bill embodies the focus of the division's mission statement which is to prevent the loss of life and property from fire and explosion, and recognizes the significant losses of life and property due to cigarettes. Between 1996 and 2005, Alaska lost upwards of $8 million in property to fires wherein cigarettes were the ignition source, and, as of today, this number continues to increase. In the same time period, cigarette- related fires caused 31 percent of the deaths due to fire - this is the leading cause of fire fatalities in Alaska. MR. BELANGER relayed that it is the division's belief that SB 84 will significantly reduce the number of fire fatalities in Alaska related to cigarettes because manufactures will have to meet the new requirements for cigarettes that meet fire safety standards. This reduction will occur at minimal cost to the state. This bill is a tool that the state can provide to the citizens of Alaska without [negatively] impacting them. He concluded by saying: "It is our duty as a state to help those that live within our borders; we urge your support on this bill, and I thank you for your time." 4:03:54 PM WARREN B. CUMMINGS, President, Alaska Fire Chiefs Association (AFCA), after noting that he is also the fire chief for the City of Fairbanks, relayed that the AFCA is very supportive of SB 84. The main goal of the [AFCA] is to reduce the number of fire- related deaths in Alaska. Cigarettes are the leading cause of home fire fatalities in the U.S., killing 700-900 people - smokers and non-smokers alike - per year. In Alaska, there have been approximately four such deaths per year; in fact, during the last 10 years, there have been 37 [cigarette-related] fire fatalities . In 2003, [cigarette-related] structure fires killed 760 people and injured 1,520 others in the U.S., and there were 5 such fatalities in Alaska. One-quarter of [cigarette-related] fire fatalities were not the smokers whose cigarettes started the fires: 34 percent of those fatalities were the children of those smokers, 24 percent were the neighbors and friends of those smokers, 14 percent were the spouses/partners of those smokers, and 13 percent were the parents of those smokers. MR. CUMMINGS relayed that research conducted in the mid-80s by the NFPA predicted that fire safe cigarettes would eliminate three out of four cigarette-related fire deaths. If cigarette manufactures had begun producing only fire safe cigarettes at that time, an estimated 15,000 lives would have been saved in the U.S., and, during the last 10 years, 27 of the aforementioned 37 fatalities would still be alive. In conclusion he said that the AFCA encourages the committee to move SB 84 forward and support it on the House floor. 4:06:09 PM MARIE DARLIN, Coordinator, AARP Capital City Task Force, relayed that the AARP supports SB 84 and is looking at trying to prevent the deaths that are caused by cigarette-related fires. She remarked on the dangers that firefighters are subject to because of cigarette-related fires, and noted that one of the other people who came to testify but couldn't because of a time constraint had served as a firefighter for many years and would have been able to give a detailed description of what firefighters find at such fires. After referring to the aforementioned recent fire in Juneau, she opined that if there is something that can be done to address this problem, it should be done. 4:07:53 PM REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER moved to report CSSB 84(JUD) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSSB 84(JUD) was reported from the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.