Updated February 4, 2008
2008 articles on RIP bills in Virginia are excerpted below.

Corporate Irresponsibility -- not caring about consumers, or anyone else
The tobacco industry is capable of making cigarettes which will self-extinguish when not being smoked.

Indeed, about 22 states in the U.S.A. (including New York, California, Vermont, Illinois, New Hampshire, Massachusetts) now require that only the "reduced ignition propensity" [RIP] cigarettes be sold in their state. 
If the tobacco industry manufactured only RIP cigarettes, there would be fewer cigarette fires world wide.  If more places, including cruise ships, were smoke-free, there would be fewer cigarette fires.

Reynolds American in 2007 announced that they would by 2010 make all their American cigarettes to be RIP.  Philip Morris, however, is seeking legislation in Virginia to allow it to continue to make cigarettes that are NOT RIP for any state or any nation that does not require RIP cigarettes.

A company should care about its consumers and the impact of its products.  Cigarette caused fires are another example of the tobacco industry's callous "blame the victim" policy, and the nicotine cartel's continued lack of responsibility for their own actions.  Any other company would long ago have recalled the product, and either ceased making it, or made it safe to use.

A fact sheet is also in this web site.
Kentucky lawsuit announced February, 2008

Web Editor's Note:  The Virginia legislative bills were written in large part by Philip Morris, which holds a patent on the special RIP cigarette paper, and is a company that knowingly sells tobacco products that addict and kill consumers one way or another. 

This company has also established a research center in Richmond, Virginia ostensibly to create "safer" cigarettes.  Yet they asked for an amendment to allow them to manufacture non-fire-safe cigarettes to North Carolina, South Carolina, and any other state and any nation that does not have a law requiring that cigarettes sold be RIP (Reduced Ignition Propensity). 

A listing of the bills in Virginia is on another page in this web site.

EXCERPTS from The Courier Journal (Louisville, Kentucky, USA), February 4, 2008, headlined, "Families file suit in 2007 fatal fire; 10 killed ...", writer Jessie Halladay.
Relatives of the 10 people killed in a Bardstown house fire last February filed a lawsuit yesterday, claiming that a cigarette maker and furniture company should be held responsible for not providing fire-safe products.

The suit, filed in Nelson County, also names the landlord and maintenance crews of the home on Guthrie Drive, alleging that they were negligent for not providing a working smoke detector in the home.

The lawsuit stems from the Feb. 6 fire in which four adults and six children were killed. The state fire marshal's office ruled that the cause of the fire was most likely improper disposal of smoking materials, though the official cause was listed as undetermined because so much of the evidence was destroyed in the blaze.

The victims of the fire are: Sherry Maddox, 47; Johnny Litsey, 52; Sherry's daughter Crystal Maddox, 30, and her daughters De'Ashia McKinney, 10, and Nakiya McKinney, 8; Sherry's daughter Demita Jo "Ann" Maddox, 26, and her 2-year-old twins, Heaven and Earth; Dariyel Maddox, 3; and Ann'Ashia Maddox, 1.

Three main claims are made in the lawsuit.

One lodged against Altria Group Inc. and its subsidiaries, Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris International, contends that the makers and distributors of Marlboro Lights cigarettes had the ability to produce and sell cigarettes considered fire-safe that would not ignite upholstery. But these safe cigarettes were not available on the market in Bardstown.

A spokeswoman for Altria declined to comment, saying the litigation is pending.

Another is lodged against Jackson Furniture Industries, accusing the company of producing a chair that did not use fire-resistant materials, despite such materials being available.

Company representatives at Jackson's headquarters in Cleveland, Tenn., did not respond to a request for comment.

Fire marshals have said that the origin of the fire was likely an upholstered chair in the living room.

The final claim is that the landlord, Nathan Johnson of Simpsonville, was negligent in not making sure a smoke detector in the home was working. The lawsuit also names Gail Brothers and Mickey Brothers, who were identified in the suit as people hired by Johnson to do maintenance on the home.

Johnson's attorney, Matthew Smith, said his client just learned of the lawsuit after being called by the media.

"We regret the tragedy of the Bardstown fire; we equally regret that a lawsuit has been filed," Smith said.

Claims made in filing a lawsuit give only one side of a case.

Janet Tonge, the sister of victim Sherry Maddox, said she wanted to pursue a legal case because she hopes it will provide more answers and help her find closure.

"I want to know what started that fire," she said. "If this will lead to some answers then I support it."

Other family members who joined the suit are: John Walker, Ann'Ashia's father; Greg McKinney, father of De'Ashia and Nakiya; Patrick Netherton, administrator of the estate of the twins for Demita Jo Maddox's surviving daughter, Yohanna; Carla Sparrow, mother of Dariyel; Roger Hardin Jr., father of Demita Jo Maddox's surviving son Nathaniel; Elizabeth Maddox, mother of Ann'Ashia; Darrell Maddox, Dariyel's father and survivor of the fire; and Michael Taylor, father of the twins and Yohanna.

EXCERPTS from The Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 29, 2008, headlined, "Bill on fire safety of cigarettes advances", writer John Reid Blackwell.

A Senate committee advanced legislation yesterday that would require cigarettes sold in Virginia to meet certain fire-safety standards by 2010.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Walter A. Stosch, R-Henrico, won unanimous approval of the Senate Education and Health Committee.

The legislation would require manufacturers to certify that cigarettes sold in Virginia meet "reduced ignition propensity" standards, using a type of banded paper designed to self-extinguish when a cigarette is discarded or left unattended. The paper does not guarantee that cigarettes will not start fires, but it does make them less likely to ignite furniture or other combustible materials, proponents of the legislation say.

The committee also adopted an amendment to Stosch's bill that would allow cigarette manufacturers in Virginia, such as Henrico County-based Philip Morris USA, to continue making cigarettes without the paper to sell in states that have not adopted any fire-safety requirements.

An increasing number of states are adopting the standards, said J. Benjamin Roy Jr., mid-Atlantic regional manager for the National Fire Protection Association. The Virginia legislation is modeled on laws adopted in 22 other states. ...

EXCERPTS from The Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 15, 2008, headlined, "Bills envision safer cigarettes; Packs made or sold in Va. would have to meet fire standards by 2010; the goal is fewer fatalities", writer John Reid Blackwell.
Cigarettes made or sold in Virginia would have to meet certain fire-safety standards by 2010, under legislation proposed by several state lawmakers.

Even cigarette maker Philip Morris USA is getting behind the legislation, which if passed would make Virginia the 23rd state to adopt such requirements.

"What we are seeing across the country is tremendous support for this type of legislation," said Lorraine Carli, spokeswoman for the National Fire Protection Association.

The organization is leading a coalition of fire-prevention and consumer-safety groups pushing for laws in every state. Fires caused by cigarettes or other smoking materials result in 700 to 900 fatalities a year in the United States, she said.

The legislation would not mean that cigarettes sold in Virginia could not start fires.

"There are no guarantees with fire," said Ed Rhodes, legislative consultant for the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association and Virginia Fire Prevention Association. "I feel very confident that it will definitely save lives and lessen the number of injuries."

The legislation would require manufacturers to certify that cigarettes sold in Virginia meet "reduced ignition-propensity" test standards, using paper designed to self-extinguish when discarded or left unattended.

"Our goal, of course, is to reduce fires from discarded cigarettes," said Sen. Walter A. Stosch, R-Henrico, one of the sponsors of the bills.

At least 164 residential fires were ignited by cigarettes, cigars or other smoking materials in Virginia in 2006, the latest year for which data are available. Those fires caused four fatalities, 15 injuries and more than $4 million in property damage, according to the Virginia Department of Fire Programs.

Rhodes said fire-prevention advocates worked with cigarette makers to craft the legislation. Cigarette companies once resisted such requirements, said Carli. "We have seen a change in the last couple of years from opposing legislation to supporting the efforts of the coalition," in part because companies want to ensure consistency in laws from state to state, she said.

... Philip Morris USA, the nation's largest cigarette maker, would prefer to see a federal law that sets standards for cigarette fire safety, spokesman Bill Phelps said. But the company supports state legislation that is consistent with what other states have adopted, he said.

The company uses a type of reduced ignition-propensity paper on its Merit cigarettes, and on all brands it sells in states that have fire-safety requirements.

The nation's second-largest cigarette maker, Winston-Salem, N.C.-based R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., announced last year that it will voluntarily switch all of its brands to reduced ignition-propensity paper within two years.

In addition to Stosch's bill, legislation has been introduced by Dels. John A. Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, and C. Charles Caputo, D-Fairfax. "It looks like we won't have a problem getting this passed in the House and Senate," Caputo said yesterday, adding that he thinks the three similar bills are likely to be combined.


EXCERPTS from The Boston Globe/Associated Press, July 10, 2006, headlined, Self-Extinguishing Cigarettes Now the Law in Massachusetts, no writer identified.
BOSTON -- Gov. Mitt Romney has signed into law a bill requiring the sale of self-extinguishing cigarettes.  The so-called "fire-safe" cigarettes are made with special paper and are designed to go out when they're not being puffed.

Supporters say the new law will help cut down on the number of cigarette-related fires -- the leading cause of home fire deaths locally and nationally.

In Massachusetts an average of 20 people are killed and 150 injured each year by cigarette-related fires.  Many of those killed and injured are nonsmokers, including children.

Cigarette manufacturers had opposed the law, saying there should be a single national standard instead of different regulations for every state.

The law sets a January 2008 deadline after which only self-extinguishing cigarettes can be sold in Massachusetts.

EXCERPTS from the Associated Press, March 23, 2006, headlined, Cigarette Eyed in Deadly Cruise Ship Fire, writer Monique Hepburn.
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica - A fire apparently started by a cigarette broke out aboard a cruise ship early Thursday as it sailed through the moonlit Caribbean, injuring 11 people and scorching about 100 rooms. One elderly American passenger died from a heart attack, the cruise ship company said.

The Star Princess [owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp.], carrying 2,690 passengers and 1,123 crew members, bore evidence of the nighttime drama as it pulled into Montego Bay's port. About 85 exterior cabins were blackened from the fire, a stark contrast to the otherwise gleaming white exterior of the ship. Metal was twisted, evidence of the heat of the blaze.

A smoldering cigarette is suspected as the cause of the blaze, said Horace Peterkin, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, who toured the ship after it docked here.

A company statement said two passengers suffered "significant smoke inhalation injuries" and nine others had "minor complications."

Other items:
Mother Jones, and later editorial, 2004

This fire article at:
http://no-smoking.org/sept05/09-28-05-4.html has the following:

“While the law would not make cigarettes fire proof, it would dramatically reduce the number of cigarette fire deaths in the state each year. Newly available data shows a 48 percent reduction in fire deaths following implementation of New York's regulations on June 28, 2004. (Please see supporting materials by visiting http://www.nypirg.org/firesafealert.html.) “

TOBACCO BBS has a FIRE link to 3,724 articles on cigarette-caused fires:

EXCERPTS from The Portsmouth Herald, January 23, 2006,
headlined, N.H. bill extinguishes smoldering cigarettes, writer, Dan Tuohy

PORTSMOUTH - Nothing frustrates state Rep. E. Albert Weare more than a fire that could have been prevented.
The former Portsmouth firefighter said examples abound - the latest being a Newmarket house fire over the holidays that investigators believe was caused by a smoldering cigarette.

But if Weare gets his way, New Hampshire will join California, New York and Vermont requiring only "fire-safe" cigarettes be sold. The cigarettes extinguish themselves when left unattended.

After a year of study that refuted claims fire-safe cigarettes would have an economic impact, the N.H. House of Representatives voted 259-73 to pass such a bill just recently.

"It is basically a life-safety bill," said Weare, R-Seabrook. "Its time has come."

Smoldering cigarettes are the leading cause of fire deaths in the nation, with more than 800 deaths a year, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health, in a report last year, said they found no effect on sales of cigarettes in New York.

"New York smokers have accepted fire-safer brands, and they were found to be no more costly or toxic than those sold in the other states," said Greg N. Connolly, the lead author of the Harvard study. "All states should adopt the New York standard to prevent needless death and suffering from fires caused by burning cigarettes."

The American Legacy Foundation, which funded the study, reported that in 2001 there were 31,200 fires caused by smoldering cigarettes, 830 deaths, and more than $386 million in direct property damage.
Weare said the industry has manufactured the cigarettes for a number of years. He said they do not cost more than regular cigarettes, and that smokers cannot really tell the difference between them.

However, Weare does not expect an easy time for the bill in the Senate because of the past concerns it would hurt the economy.

The bill as it was introduced last year estimated the state would lose about $2 million in tobacco tax revenue. That figure is based on New York’s estimate of a 2 percent loss attributable to its fire-safe cigarette law. New Hampshire expects $100 million in state tobacco tax revenues in the next fiscal year.

But preliminary studies, including the one by Harvard, indicate the economic impact is marginal.

The legislative committee that studied the issue last year concluded that "fire safer" would be a better name than "fire safe," just in case anyone thinks the cigarettes are 100 percent fire safe.

These special cigarettes are also known as "reduced ignition propensity" cigarettes. The cigarette paper is banded in areas, and sometimes less porous, to reduce ignition.

The bill, as it goes to the Senate, includes an amendment that gives the state’s safety commissioner until Jan. 1, 2007, to adopt New York safety standards. It would not require "fire-safe" cigarettes be the only cigarettes sold in New Hampshire until July 1, 2007.

Technology for "fire-safe" cigarettes is not new. Manufacturers have researched it for years. Philip Morris, the largest U.S. cigarette manufacturer, supported New York’s regulation in 2003. It indicated, however, that a federal regulation would be best to ensure uniform policy. Congress has debated establishment of a national standard, and that only makes sense given the evidence that the fire-safe cigarettes can save lives, said James M. Shannon, president of the National Fire Protection Association.

"The companies that produce cigarettes probably have the political clout to drag out this process for the next few years, but it seems inevitable that at sometime in the near future, the United States will have a national fire-safe cigarette standard," Shannon wrote late last year in support of state-by-state requirements.

Excerpts from The Minnesota Daily, October 26, 2001, Letters to the Editor, headlined, Smoking laws work,
written by Edward L. Sweda, Jr., senior attorney, Tobacco Control Resource Center

                ... what is not mentioned is cigarettes are the
                number one cause of fatal fires in residences, annually killing approximately
                 1,000 Americans, injuring another 4,000 and causing $4 billion in property
                 damage. One-third of the victims are children.

                 While it is impossible to ensure every one of the millions of smokers in this
                 country exercises adequate care when handling an intentionally burned
                 consumer product, it is possible to alter the way that product is manufactured to
                 make cigarette-caused fires far less likely. That was what New York’s
                 legislature achieved last year with passage of first-in-the-nation legislation
                 requiring tobacco manufacturers to produce cigarettes adhering to new fire
                 safety standards, something a technical study group mandated by the federal
                 Safe Cigarette Act of 1984 deemed “technologically and economically feasible.”
                 Here in Massachusetts, our state Senate has approved similar legislation in the
                 face of strong opposition from the tobacco lobby.

                 The tobacco industry’s vigorous opposition to such legislation in Minnesota and
                 across the country is yet another example of its callous disregard for human
                 health and safety.

Reynolds American (formerly RJR) -- Andrew Schindler's vacation home was destroyed by fire, and other homes in the area damaged, all caused by a cigarette. 
First of all, if Schindler had made his home and the outside area a NO SMOKING zone, this would not have happened.  Secondly, if RJR had made RIP cigarettes, the fire would never have happened.

Four articles on this fire are excerpted on this page:

    The Washington Post, April 23, 1997
    United Press International, April 22, 1997
    The Associated Press, April 22, 1997
    Reuters, April 22, 1997

Other articles:
Baltimore Sun, February 16, 1999

Jeffrey Wigand, portrayed in the movie The Insider was moved to action after a fatal fire caused by cigarettes.

Fact Sheet on RIP cigarettes and the tobacco industry which has insisted on making cigarettes that do not self-extinguish.

Letter to editor, The Minnesota Daily, October 26, 2001, on tobacco industry failure to act and innocent victims suffer.

The Portsmouth Herald, New Hamphire to join other states in requiring self-extinguishing cigarettes.

EXCERPTS from The Washington Post, April 23, 1997, page A03, wriiter John Schwartz, headlined:   Cigarette Butt Is Suspected in $1 Million Fire
 Tobacco Executive's Home On Private N.C. Isle Burns

 A cigarette butt is the likely cause of a million-dollar fire that destroyed the vacation home of a top tobacco industry executive last Friday, fire officials said.

Damages to the three-story North Carolina weekend home of Andrew J. Schindler, president of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., has been estimated at $750,000, while other houses on North Carolina's Figure Eight island suffered an estimated $250,000 in losses as the fire spread.

Phil A. Kouwe, fire administrator for New Hanover County, said local fire officials had not definitively determined, or "called," the fire's cause. But a construction worker who had been reparing the Schindler house reported that he had tossed a lighted cigarette butt near the house just before his lunch break.

"This makes us look at this as a very strong possibility, but it's important that we have the time to eliminate any other possible sources of ignition," Kouwe said.

Fewer than 100 people live year-round on the private island that has recently seen a spurt of vacation home growth. The island does not have a fire station. Firefighters reached the island by the single bridge connecting it to the mainland, and also used a helicopter to drop water over the area to try to prevent the fire's spread.

Conditions are hazardous for fires in the area lately, Kouwe said. Hurricane Fran, the 1996 storm that left 31 dead and caused millions of dollars damage left masses of dead, flammable vegetation, and recent dry weather has left the island's wood-frame homes especially vulnerable, Kouwe said. "It's just extremely volatile right now."

"That's something, from a general standpoint, that people need to remember -- a cigarette is a burning object," Kouwe said.

Island resident Phyllis Atkinson saw the smoke from her deck and rode her bicycle from her home to watch the firefighters in action. "It was a terribly windy day -- we're very, very fortunate that it wasn't more extensive," Atkinson said.

Maura P. Ellis, a spokeswoman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, noted that fire officials had not definitively identified cigarettes as the cause: "Last they heard the investigation is still ongoing."

Schindler has worked for the company since 1974.

In December 1989, a cigarette fire did $100,000 damage to the suburban Cincinnati home of another RJR executive, Ronald Evans.  Evans was treated for third-degree burns.

Excerpts from United Press International, April 22, 1997, no writer identified,
headlined:  Cigarette starts tobacco man's house fire

 WILMINGTON, N.C., April 22 (UPI) _ Fire investigators in Wilmington, N.C., say a fire that destroyed the vacation home of the president of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. was probably caused by a discarded cigarette.

The three-story $750,000 home of Andrew Schindler on Figure Eight Island was destroyed by the fire Friday. There were no injuries.

New Hanover County fire marshal Aubrey Rivenbark said today (Tuesday) the fire appears to have been caused by a cigarette left behind by workmen installing tile.

A man working in an area near a shrubbery bed where the fire started told investigators he had smoked a cigarette about a half-hour before the crew left for lunch.

Fanned by wind gusts of up to 30 mph, the fire scorched roofs and decks on four adjacent oceanfront homes, causing another $250,000 in damage. It was the first major fire on the private island in more than a decade.

Investigators say they've found no other possible cause for the fire, such as an electrical malfunction.

EXCERPTS from The Associated Press, April 22, 1997, no writer identified,
headlined:  Tobacco Exec's Home Burns

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) -- A fire that destroyed a vacation home owned by the president of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. likely was caused by a discarded cigarette, investigators said.

The home owned by Andrew Schindler caught fire Friday while workmen installing tile were at lunch. A worker told investigators he smoked a cigarette about 30 to 45 minutes before the crew left.

Embers from the fire, fanned by 25 mph wind, flew across a road and scorched roofs and decks on four oceanfront homes.

Damage to the Schindler home, reduced to several rows of charred pilings, was estimated at $750,000. Total damage to the other houses was estimated at $250,000.

EXCERPTS from Reuters, April 22, 1997, no writer identified, headlined:
Fire at U.S. Cigarette Exec's House Blamed on Butt

WILMINGTON, N.C., April 22 (Reuter) - A discarded cigarette was the probable cause of a fire that destroyed the luxury vacation home of the president of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and caused $1 million in damages, fire officials said on Tuesday.

The three-floor beach home of Reynolds President Andrew Schindler on upscale Figure Eight island was reduced to a row of charred pilings after it caught fire while workers installing ceiling tile were at lunch on Friday.

Damage to the house was estimated at $750,000. Damage caused to houses nearby by flying embers as the fire raged was estimated at $250,000.

"Every county fire department around was there," said a spokesman for the Wilmington Fire Department.

Fire officials said inspectors had not made a final determination of what caused the accidental blaze. But they said it likely was caused by a cigarette butt left by a worker who told inspectors he had smoked near where the fire started about half an hour before the crew left.

"We have limited the area of origin to the front of the home, in an area where a workman reported discarding a cigarette just a few minutes before the fire started," Phil Kouwe, fire administrator for New Hanover County Fire Services, said. "We're looking strongly at that as a potential source of ignition for the fire but not ruling out any other possible causes as well."

EXCERPTS from The Boston Globe, Nov. 11, 1999, writer Judith Gaines, headlined:
Fatal fire behind epic fight - Tragedy spurred tobacco whistleblower

It was the deadliest fire Boston had suffered in 18 years, and out of its ashes emerged an impassioned whistleblower, ready to begin the epic battle against Big Tobacco.

The four-alarm blaze raged through a Roslindale apartment on May 27, 1990, killing five members of an Irish immigrant family and one of their friends.

Myles O'Neill, a handyman who had come from Ireland four years earlier, his wife Maureen, their three young children, and the boyfriend of Maureen's younger sister, Deirdre Kearney, perished in the savage fire - a fire that was started, Boston fire officials concluded, by a burning cigarette accidentally dropped between cushions in an overstuffed chair.

Only Kearney, who also lived in the first-floor apartment, survived the blaze.

From this traumatic fire, she and other grieving relatives launched an attack on the nation's tobacco industry in a lawsuit charging Philip Morris Cos. with responsibility for the deaths, because it failed to use available technology to produce a safer cigarette. To support their claims, they enlisted the help of Jeffrey Wigand, former top researcher for tobacco giant Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., whose ordeal with the tobacco industry is the subject of a new film, ''The Insider,'' which is airing in Boston.

Wigand's anger at the outcome of the Roslindale case, which was dismissed without coming to trial, helped spur him to go public about attempts by industry executives to hide what they knew about the addictive effects of nicotine and carcinogens used to sweeten pipe tobacco.

Less well-known is the case of the Roslindale fire, in which Wigand was blocked from giving evidence by federal judge Robert E. Keeton. The judge ruled that Wigand was an unfit witness because a confidentiality agreement he had signed with Brown & Williamson prohibited him from speaking publicly about tobacco.

Wigand also said he believed that the Roslindale fire could have been prevented if the tobacco industry had produced fire-safe cigarettes, which, he said, it knew how to do before 1990. Fire-safe cigarettes are less likely to cause fires because they are thinner, less dense and less porous than other cigarettes, and hence produce less heat when lit.

''A favorable outcome could have forced the tobacco industry to produce a fire-safe cigarette,'' said Gregory Connolly, director of the Tobacco Control Program in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. ''There's no question that suppressing Jeff's testimony had a deadly effect.''

But the discovery phase of the proceedings stretched on for several years, remembered Andrew McGuire, now executive director of the Trauma Foundation at San Francisco General Hospital, who began the campaign for fire-safe cigarettes in 1979.

EXCERPTS from February 16, 1999, The Baltimore Sun,
Headlined, Tobacco industry tied to firefighters; Donations seen as way to weaken support for fire-safe cigarettes, writer Scott Shane

After a cigarette ignited a fatal fire that roared through a Baltimore high-rise Feb. 5, Maryland Fire Marshal Rocco J. Gabriele cautioned smokers, noting that careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths.

But Gabriele did not mention one reason smoking remains such a fire hazard: For 20 years, the tobacco industry has defeated attempts to require that cigarettes be redesigned to make them less likely to start fires. The industry's main tactic has been to weaken support for such regulation by courting key fire officials such as Gabriele with hefty donations.

The National Association of State Fire Marshals, which Gabriele leads as president, receives $50,000 a year from tobacco giant Philip Morris for "administrative expenses." Several years ago, the tobacco industry gave the association $500,000, which was used to buy smoke detectors for free distribution.

The fire marshal association's Washington office is run by longtime tobacco lobbyist Peter G. Sparber, who represented R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in Congress until recently on the issue of fire-safe cigarettes.

Sparber, who said he serves the association for no fee, has also lobbied on behalf of the National Volunteer Fire Council, a coalition of volunteer fire companies that has received tobacco funding.

Advocates of fire-safety standards for cigarettes find the tobacco-firefighter alliances preposterous.

"It's like the police department taking money from the Mafia to support crime control," said Andrew McGuire, a San Francisco fire-safety advocate who has served on two federal study groups on fire-safe cigarettes. "I think the tobacco industry recognized early on the potential harm the fire service could cause them."

Glenn E. Schneider, spokesman for the anti- tobacco coalition Smoke Free Maryland, said the cigarette companies have often used financial largess to neutralize potential critics.

"Is no organization sacred?" Schneider said. "It's reprehensible that they [cigarette manufacturers] are trying to get into bed with the firefighting industry on this issue."

Rep. Joe Moakley, a Massachusetts Democrat who has fought for years for fire-safe-cigarette standards, said the industry is capable of producing such a product, either by making cigarettes self-extinguishing or changing their composition and dimensions. The holdup has been not technology but politics, he said.

"It's taken so long because tobacco has a great lobbying force in the Congress," said Moakley, who began pushing for legislation after a cigarette-caused fire in his district in 1979 killed seven members of one family. "If the industry hadn't opposed it, it would have passed long ago."

Moakley said the tobacco companies' generosity to firefighters had effectively blunted their support for standards. "They bought smoke detectors and fire alarms, they financed Little Leagues, and they tried to seem like the good guys," he said.

"Quite frankly, I don't care where we get the money," Gabriele said. "I'm not proud. I'll take money from anyone who wants to give it to us."

Sparber said any suggestion that the tobacco industry has influenced fire-protection groups with their financial support was "ridiculous." Most of the industry donations supported fire-prevention efforts, he said.

Michael W. Minieri II, executive director of the fire marshals' association, said that by policy, the group accepts corporate contributions but does not permit donors to influence its positions. He said the association has opposed fire-safe-cigarette standards in the past only because they were not effective.

"We are strongly in favor of effective standards," Minieri said. "We oppose standards that aren't effective."

Philip Morris spokeswoman Mary Carnovale said the biggest U.S. cigarette manufacturer has aided fire-safety groups not to influence them, but because the company recognizes that cigarettes cause fires.

She said Philip Morris is continuing research on making cigarettes safer. But she added: "No standard for cigarettes and fire safety can replace the need for the exercise of good common sense and individual responsibility."

Internal tobacco industry documents unveiled in recent lawsuits show the strategy of blocking fire-safety standards for cigarettes by wooing firefighting organizations was devised shortly after Moakley began pushing for regulation.

The Tobacco Institute's 1984 report to its board of directors proudly described how the institute had turned around firefighters' backing for federal standards.

"Before we began [in 1982], the fire service was slowly uniting against us," the report said. "Uniformed firefighters were appearing at legislative hearings, writing articles and giving interviews, demanding cigarette regulation.

"By this past summer, several of the largest fire service groups were working closely with us legislatively and on the prevention of all kinds of accidental fires. We have been asked to serve on their boards. We are asked to give speeches and we are invited into the homes and private meetings of America's fire service," the report said.

"We are not out of the woods," the report said, noting that a federal study of standards was then just beginning. "But we face the rest of it with the fire fighters, and not with them against us."

That strategy has remained effective for 15 years. Hearing a mixed message on the issue from firefighting organizations, Congress has never set standards. Instead, it has ordered two studies and directed the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop tests to measure the fire hazard from particular cigarettes, which it did in 1993.

Richard J. Gann, chief of the federal agency's fire science program, said that the 14 leading cigarette brands flunked the two tests his agency helped devise. But he said certain lesser-known brands were far less likely to cause fires, suggesting that safer cigarettes are feasible.

"If an effective standard is put in place and the cigarette industry meets it, you'll see the result very quickly in a reduction of fires and fire deaths," Gann said.

Moakley said tobacco lobbyists have long diverted attention from cigarettes to furniture, mattresses and other products that dropped cigarettes ignite.

"Every time I get close, they say, 'Let's make furniture fireproof,' " Moakley said. "They want to fireproof the world so that people can drop their cigarettes everywhere."

Moakley said he plans to file a new bill March 11 that would give the Consumer Product Safety Commission the power to set fire-safety standards for cigarettes. This time, he thinks, it might pass.

EXCERPTS from The Berkeley Daily Planet, January 24, 2006, headlined, Editorial:  California should adopt a fire-safe cigarette law like New York state's, writer, Becky O'Malley, article written June 13, 2004
Last week a Berkeley woman died in a fire which started in her bedroom. Neighbors said she was a cigarette smoker. Fire Marshal David Orth has not yet definitively reported on what caused the fire, but he thinks a dropped cigarette was the most probable cause. Statistically speaking, there’s a very good chance it was the cigarette, because many, many fires are started by dropped cigarettes.

Exactly 25 years ago this month [June, 2004], Mother Jones magazine published an article which I wrote, “Cigarettes and Sofas,” documenting the relationship between cigarettes and fires. It reported on “self-extinguishing” cigarettes, designed to go out if not actively puffed on by the smoker, and on how the tobacco industry had successfully suppressed information about them.

The article was based on preliminary research by Andrew McGuire of San Francisco’s Trauma Foundation, and my own research was funded by $3,500 from the Oakland Firefighter’s Union, spearheaded by the enthusiasm of member Ray Gatchalian (who died too young in an auto accident last year.) At the time it was published, it got a lot of attention, leading to several television adaptations and receiving an award from Project Censored, which at the time (and perhaps still) spotlighted stories which were ignored by the mainstream press. It was reprinted from time to time over the years—Mother Jones offered me a $12 royalty check for reprints not too long ago. There were lawsuits by victims of cigarette fires, and bills in Congress and in state legislatures to require cigarettes to be self-extinguishing. As long as big tobacco was powerful and well-funded, nothing happened.

It took more than 25 years and a lot of work by a lot of people to begin to solve this relatively straightforward safety problem. That’s somewhat of a cautionary tale for those who believe in the power of the press. Just finding out the truth is not enough, as Andrew McGuire, who first pulled the statistics together, can tell you. Without the sponsorship of the firefighters, Andrew’s research might never have seen the light of day in print. Even after the facts were before the public, both in print and on television, it took court cases and lobbying legislatures to get anything accomplished.

Just this June, 25 years later, with the tobacco industry now on the defensive, New York’s state law mandating fire-safe cigarettes finally came on line. It’s about time. New York has a big percentage of the smoking market, so this law will save many lives. Canada’s Parliament also passed such a law in April of this year. California should be next. With both California and New York on the books, it’s likely the American tobacco industry would find it practical to give in and make all cigarettes sold nationwide self-extinguishing.

  Updated 4 February 2008