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May 19, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich signs law that will prevent home fires and save lives
As of January 1, 2008, all cigarettes in Illinois must be “low ignition”

SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to prevent fires that are caused by cigarettes, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed Senate Bill 2302, sponsored by Sen. William Haine (D-Alton) and Rep. Daniel Burke (D-Chicago). SB 2302 requires that beginning January 1, 2008, all cigarettes sold in Illinois must be certified as low ignition according to standards established by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). Low-ignition cigarettes are wrapped in special paper that contains a fire-retardant band, which automatically extinguishes the cigarette when it burns to the band without being puffed.

“Any step that can prevent a fire is one that we should take,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Cigarettes that self-extinguish will help keep families all across the state safe from the kind of accidents that destroy homes and lives.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, cigarettes are the leading cause of home fire fatalities in the United States, killing 700-900 people – smokers and non-smokers alike – every year. More than 1,500 others are injured each year nationally in cigarette-related fires, and property losses in smoking-related fires total hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) would verify testing and certification that all cigarettes are low ignition. The OSFM would also approve any packaging that identifies the cigarettes as low ignition. Retailers who sell cigarettes in violation of this new law would face civil penalties, and the cigarettes without the fire-retardant bands could be seized. Any fines collected would go in to a new fund that the OSFM could use for fire safety and prevention programs.

“Cigarettes are one of the leading causes of residential fires in the United States each year, claiming an average of 1,000 lives and causing nearly 2,000 injuries and nearly $400,000,000 in direct property damage,” said Sen. Haine. “This bill will help the State of Illinois cut down on these fires, thereby saving the lives of citizens. The technology is there to make these cigarettes, and in Illinois, we are ensuring that fire safety is the standard.”

"Too often we hear stories of homes burning down and people being hurt or losing their lives in fires and then learn that it was caused by a lit cigarette," Rep. Burke said. "Sadly, many of these incidents could have been avoided. We cannot control the actions of smokers or the accidental misuse of smoking materials, but we can control the ignition propensity of those cigarettes. Hopefully, by requiring self-extinguishing cigarettes, we will be able to help avoid more future tragedies."

Illinois joins New York, Vermont, California, and Canada in requiring self-extinguishing cigarettes.

“Although smoking-related fires thankfully have decreased in recent years due to fire-resistant furniture and public education, cigarettes are still the leading cause of home fire fatalities. This new law is an important step forward to further cut the number of fires caused by cigarettes and – most importantly – save lives,” said State Fire Marshal Dave Foreman.


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