Legislature(2007 - 2008)BELTZ 211
02/27/2007 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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SB 84-TESTING & PACKAGING OF CIGARETTES CHAIR ELLIS announced SB 84 to be up for consideration. SENATOR DONNY OLSON, sponsor of SB 84, invited his staff to the witness table. He said that children are a major portion of burn statistics and that SB 84 mandates that only fire-safe cigarettes can be sold in Alaska and establishes the testing and certification requirements. He said that so-called fire-safe cigarettes are reduced ignition propensity cigarettes. They are designed to be less likely than a conventional cigarette to ignite soft furnishings such as a couch or a mattress. The bill also provides for the marking of cigarette packaging in an approved and easily identifiable manner to indicate that the contents are fire-safe. He stated that cigarettes are the leading cause of home fatalities in Alaska and the U.S. The most common materials first ignited in home fires are mattresses and bedding, upholstered furniture and floor coverings. Often cigarettes are lit, then forgotten by a smoker; it can smolder for hours. He said this legislation was brought to his attention by the Fire Chiefs and it is also supported by Phillip Morris. CHAIR ELLIS stated that a committee substitute, version M, was before the committee. 1:37:06 PM DENISE LICCTOLI, staff to Senator Olson, sponsor of SB 84, explained the differences in the CS are predominantly wording changes. The title has been shortened to reflect a change at the end of the bill, which removed some sections that were referenced in it. CHAIR ELLIS said he supported that and asked for the major changes to be explained first. 1:37:56 PM MS. LICCTOLI said that Sec. 18.74.065 was added to allow the fire marshal to perform testing under the terms of this chapter. The preferences given to the package markings are standards that are already being used in the State of New York. New language was added on page 6, lines 6 - 9, saying "FSC" meaning "fire standards compliant" would be accepted as a marking on the cigarettes. She said the next substantial change was on page 9, lines 9 - 12, where language now says the state fire marshal shall use the standards of New York as persuasive authority rather than requiring the implementation as done in New York. CHAIR ELLIS said he knew the industry was worried about 50 different standards in 50 different states and asked if the New York standards were more regular. MS. LICCTOLI answered yes; the tobacco industry's concern from a business perspective is that each state has its own way of dealing with this law - and that would mean different types of cigarettes. However, because there is currently no federal law, most states that have adopted this measure have adopted the New York law. So consistency is there. 1:41:52 PM Sections 2, 3, 4, and 5 were eliminated from the original bill because they regarded tobacco tax laws that are not appropriate to reference in talking about the burning propensity of cigarettes. 1:42:43 PM SENATOR BUNDE noted there was no fiscal note from the state fire marshal. MS. LICCTOLI said the fire marshal was on line to testify if he wanted to ask him that question. CHAIR ELLIS said the committee would come back to him. SENATOR STEVENS asked if the sponsor statement is applicable to the CS. SENATOR OLSON replied that it applies to version M as well. 1:43:56 PM SENATOR BUNDE asked if this bill would raise the cost of cigarettes in Alaska since they are special manufacture. MS. LICCTOLI replied that other states have found that their price doesn't go up. CHAIR ELLIS asked if "self-extinguishing" was an accurate way to characterize these cigarettes. MS. LICCTOLI replied that another name used is reduced cigarette propensity (RCP), which means they tend not to burn when left unattended. SENATOR OLSON said he has also heard them called fire-safe cigarettes. The Coalition for Fire Safe Cigarettes has a comparison of the ones proposed in this legislation to regular cigarettes. SENATOR STEVENS asked if this had worked in other states. SENATOR OLSON replied that those facts exist, but he would let the fire marshal present them. CHAIR ELLIS noted that people can testify on either version. 1:47:30 PM STEVE "RUSTY" BELANGER, State Fire Marshal, Anchorage, supported SB 84. In reference to the fiscal note, he said that 254 different brands of cigarettes are recognized by the state of Alaska and the bill requires the manufacturer of each cigarette to pay a $250 fee, which comes to about $263,000. MR. BELANGER said because the legislation is so recent in several other states the statistics were being tabulated as they spoke. However, New York is seeing good results. 1:51:23 PM SENATOR BUNDE said it sounded like the fiscal note would be positive, but he wanted to know how much the testing would cost the fire marshal and he thought the DOR might want to have a fiscal note regarding bootlegging. 1:52:17 PM DOUG SCHRAGE, Anchorage fireman, said that cigarettes are the major cause of structural fires, both fatal and non-fatal. Frequently it's not the smoker who gets killed or injured, but rather innocent children. 1:53:06 PM WARREN CUMMINGS, Alaska Fire Chiefs Association, Fairbanks, said he preferred the term "self-extinguishing cigarettes" instead of the "Coalition for Fire-safe Cigarettes." He said this legislation is about saving lives and cigarettes are the leading cause of home fire fatalities in the United States - killing 700 to 900 people, smokers and non-smokers alike per year. In 2003, smoking material structure fires killed 760 people and injured 1,520 others in the US; in Alaska 5 people died. One-quarter of the victims of smoking material fire fatalities are not the smokers whose cigarette started the fire, 34 percent are their children, 25 percent are neighbors or friends, 14 percent are the spouses or partners and 13 percent are the parents. Research from the mid-1980s predicted that fire-safe cigarettes would eliminate 3 out of 4 cigarette fire-related deaths. Research from New York shows that fatalities declined by one- third in not quite a half-year. 1:55:36 PM MR. CUMMINGS said this bill also has penalties for selling non- self-extinguishing cigarettes, which are pretty substantial. So, he reasoned there would be added revenue to the state if regular cigarettes get bootlegged. He closed saying the Alaska Fire Chiefs support the committee substitute for this bill. 1:56:18 PM SENATOR BUNDE said he heard that unattended cooking was the leading cause of housing fire fatalities. MR. CUMMINGS responded that there are more cooking fires, but they don't result in fatalities. CHAIR ELLIS said he hoped the Department of Revenue could answer Senator Bunde's question about fiscal notes. 1:57:06 PM JOANNA BALES, Excise Audit Manager, Department of Revenue (DOR), said she is the program manager of the state cigarette tax and asked if the CS removes the DOR from the bill. MS. LICCTOLI replied that it removes the department from the tobacco tax section, but it does not remove the Department of Revenue from the bill. CHAIR ELLIS said he would hold the bill in committee. 1:58:14 PM SENATOR BUNDE said he was concerned about bootlegging of regular cigarettes to avoid the tax and asked if this would cause the DOR additional challenges. MS. BALES replied that under this bill, the department would be trading one job for another. Currently a directory of cigarettes that are approved for sale in the state is maintained. Those cigarettes have to meet all the state and federal requirements before they can be sold. So, this would be a new requirement that would be added to the other requirements for cigarettes. Experience has shown that people try to bring in cigarettes that aren't on the approved directory anyway - sometimes ordering them over the Internet. The department's challenges wouldn't be any different and its fiscal note wouldn't be either. She said it's important to have this kind of legislation and the majority of people who buy cigarettes buy the ones that come through legal channels. She noted that the state of New York put out a preliminary report in 2005 about the fire-safe cigarettes it required to be sold since August of 2000. It talks about all the issues brought up in committee. It found that consumers don't want to smoke the old cigarettes versus the fire-safe ones. SENATOR BUNDE asked if the packets would be stamped like the current tax stamp and he asked who would stamp them. MS. BALES replied that the packets would still come through a distributor who would stamp them. This bill requires all retailers in the state to get pictures of what the packaging will look like so they know they are stamping product that is in compliance with the law. 2:02:39 PM RAY BIZAL, Western Regional Manager, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), supported SB 84. He said that six states - New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Illinois and California - have already passed similar laws. One quarter of the U.S. population is protected by this law and as is the entire nation of Canada. Statistics are available for the first six months in New York and indicate that there has been no reduction in cigarette tax revenue as a result of the law and further the New York Office of Fire Prevention reports a one- third reduction in cigarette-related fire fatalities and an even higher reduction in the number of cigarette-related fires. He said 22 other legislatures are considering this issue this year. 2:06:11 PM SENATOR STEVENS moved to adopt the CS to SB 84, version M. There were no objections and it was so ordered. CHAIR ELLIS said he would hold the bill until Thursday.