SALEM, Ore. (AP) " 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 slightly alter cigarettes so they will extinguish if they aren't smoked. Nelson said similar legislation is being considered in about 15 states this year.
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 have also argued that states should wait until they know whether New York's law has any effect on the number of fires caused by cigarettes.
The measure's supporters say the state can't wait to prevent the deaths and damage that result from cigarette-caused fires.
Bill Lafferty of the Oregon Department of Forestry said the bill could even help with this summer's fire season, which is expected to be dangerous because of this year's dry conditions.
"The conditions that we're facing are extreme," Lafferty said.
Lafferty said that 673 of Oregon's wildland fires in the last 10 years have been caused by discarded cigarettes, costing an average of $3.75 million to extinguish.
The committee plans to hold another hearing before taking action on the bill.
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Senate Bill 738