SALEM – Tobacco companies are opposing a bill that would require all cigarettes sold in Oregon be “fire safe” – or self-extinguishing if not being smoked – to reduce cigarette-caused fires.
Manufacturers argue that costs will increase and small cigarette companies will be forced out of business if they are subject to different state rules, as opposed to a national standard.
“I’m here to argue very strongly that we shouldn’t have to design and manufacture a product in potentially 50 different ways,” Mark Nelson, a lobbyist for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, told the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday.
New York and Canada have passed similar laws, which require the makers to alter cigarettes slightly so they will extinguish if they aren’t smoked.
Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, chairman of the committee, said states need to take action because tobacco companies would lobby even more strongly against a nationwide effort to require fire-safe cigarettes.
Opponents also have argued that states should wait until they know whether New York’s law has any effect on the number of fires caused by cigarettes.
Bill Lafferty of the state Department of Forestry said the bill could help with this summer’s fire season. Lafferty said that 673 of Oregon’s wildland fires in the past 10 years have been caused by discarded cigarettes.
The committee plans to hold another hearing before taking action on the bill.