Smokers fuming over ‘fire-safe’ cigarettesPublished 10:38am Thursday, December 31, 2009
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
Michigan smokers can’t be too happy with recent developments in the state.
After Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed legislation to ban smoking in all public places just weeks ago, another law is taking effect Friday that has many Michigan smokers fuming.
Starting at the beginning of the year, cigarette manufacturers must sell only fire-safe cigarettes to Michigan retailers. These cigarettes, which come with a Fire Standard Compliant (FSC) label, have extra bands of paper that act as “speed bumps” to slow down a burning cigarette and cause them to self-extinguish when unattended.
Discarded smoking materials are the second leading cause of house fire-related deaths and injuries in the nation, according to a November press release from the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth. So lawmakers hope the regulation will help curb those numbers.
But local convenience store owners say their customers have been complaining about the new cigarettes.
John and Kristi Archer, owners of Belle Plaza Party Store in Niles, say they have been selling only fire-safe cigarettes since October, and their customers have been griping about the taste.
“They are designed that if you put it in an ash tray it goes out,” John said. “But from everything I’ve heard, everybody’s complaining about it.”
The Archers say they have lost a little business since the FSC cigarettes were introduced.
“We have people who come in and look at our packs to see if they don’t say FSC on it,” Kristi said. “There’s a different taste. The comment is that there’s more bite to the taste and it makes them cough.”
Nikki Antisdale, a cashier at Crocker’s Party Store in Niles, agrees.
“They say it tastes bad and it makes them sick, gives them headaches,” she said. “Everybody’s going around trying to find packs without the label.”
Antisdale, a smoker, said the cigarettes leave a “nasty aftertaste.”
Dave Singh, the owner of Crocker’s, says his cigarette sales have nearly been cut in half since the store began shelving the FSC packs.
Niles Fire Department Chief Larry Lamb hopes the law will help curb fires started by cigarettes.
“Smoking is still a pretty good cause of fires,” he said. “From what I’ve heard from other fire prevention people, (the FSC cigarettes) seem to be rather effective.”
State Fire Marshal Ronald R. Farr believes the law brings a new level of safety to Michigan.
“This law will have a significant impact on reducing the number of fires, associated deaths, injuries, and property damage caused by discarded or unattended smoking materials,” Farr said in a press release after the bill was signed in November. “Because these cigarettes are less likely to ignite fires, this law is a big step in fire protection for Michigan citizens.”
Manufacturers, distributors or retailers who continue to sell non-FSC cigarettes will face a $100 fine per pack.
Michigan is the 49th state to adopt such a policy.