Fire safer cigarette bill signed into law

-A A +A
By Carol A. Clark

Any entity that manufactures cigarettes to be sold in New Mexico must now make them self-extinguishable.

In nearly his final bill action from the 2009 Legislative session, Gov. Bill Richardson signed House Bill 70, the “Fire Safer Cigarette and Firefighter Protection Act,” into law Wednesday imposing stiff penalties on manufacturers who fail to comply.

This includes entities that produce or cause cigarettes to be produced for sale in New Mexico, including cigarettes to be sold here through an importer. The law also applies to retail dealers engaged in selling cigarettes.

Rep. Jeannette Wallace, R-Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Sandoval County sponsored the bill, which requires manufacturers to comply by Jan. 1, 2010.

Wallace explained in an earlier interview that she sponsored the bill because it’s already law in most other states, clearly indicating its importance.

“One of the reasons I became involved with this bill is that as fire marshal of Los Alamos county, this is just one of our efforts to minimize fires and fire-related deaths in our county.” said Los Alamos Assistant Fire Chief/Fire Marshal Michael Thompson. “Cigarette-caused fires result in the deaths of 700 to 900 people every year across the United States. While not the highest cause of fires, cigarette-caused fires do have the highest death rate.”

Los Alamos has had fires start because of lit cigarettes but they didn’t result in death, Thompson said, adding that last year Santa Fe had a death from a cigarette-caused fire as did Albuquerque this year. “The way these cigarettes work is they are made with thicker paper and special bands so they will self-extinguish when not actively smoked,” Thompson said. “This means they are less likely to ignite in a combustible environment.”

The test method and performance standard required in the Act is in accordance with the American society of testing and materials standard E2187-04 test method for measuring the ignition strength of cigarettes and is conducted on 10 layers of filter paper.

Each certified cigarette will contain lowered permeability bands in the cigarette paper to achieve compliance and will have at least two nominally identical bands on the paper surrounding the tobacco column.

Each cigarette package will be required to carry:

 • The marking pursuant to Section 5 of the Fire-Safer Cigarette and Firefighter Protection Act;

• the laboratory that conducted the testing; and

• the date testing occurred.

Each manufacturer must maintain copies of the reports of all tests conducted on all cigarettes offered for sale for a period of three years and make copies of those reports available to the state fire marshal and the attorney general upon written request.

Any manufacturer who fails to make copies of the reports available within 60 days may be assessed a civil penalty up to $10,000 for every day copies are not made available.

A manufacturer or wholesaler who knowingly sells cigarettes in violation of the Fire-Safer Cigarette and Firefighter Protection Act may be assessed a civil penalty up to $100 for each pack not to exceed $100,000 for sales during any 30-day period.

A retail dealer may be assessed a civil penalty not to exceed $100 for each pack not to exceed $25,000 in any 30-day period.

In addition to any penalty prescribed by law, any corporation, partnership, sole proprietor, limited partnership or association engaged in the manufacture of cigarettes that knowingly makes a false certification may be assessed a civil penalty of $75,000-$250,000 for each offense.

To enforce the provisions of the Fire-Safer Cigarette and Firefighter Protection Act, the attorney general, the taxation and revenue department and the state fire marshal, their duly authorized representatives and other law enforcement personnel may examine the books, papers, invoices and other records of any person in possession, control or occupancy of premises where cigarettes are placed, stored, sold or offered for sale.