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Fire-safe cigarette bill needs to pass

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Oregon legislators need to finish what they could not accomplish two years ago and adopt legislation requiring the sale of fire-safe cigarettes.

We applaud the leadership of fire officials from throughout Oregon who are sponsoring this legislation in an effort to reduce the number of deaths caused by fires linked to cigarettes being left unattended. This legislation already has been unanimously passed by the Oregon House and had its first hearing Monday in the Senate.

It should be an easy call to require fire-safe cigarettes in Oregon.

State Fire Marshal Nancy Orr says that cigarettes are among the leading causes of structural fires in Oregon and are linked to many forest and brush fires as well. From 2001 through 2005, there were 103 injuries and 29 fatalities from cigarette-ignited home fires in Oregon.

Among those calling for this legislation is Tim Birr, a retired division chief who served as the communication services director for Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue. During his 30-year tenure with Tualatin Valley, Birr saw too many tragedies. 'I believe those of us in the fire service have a duty to pursue any mechanism that can prevent fires and save lives - no matter how connected and affluent a particular industry might be.'

Birr wisely points out that many of those who die in a fire caused by a smoldering cigarette are children sleeping - or in the case of multi-family housing, neighbors living next door to a careless smoker.

A law requiring that fire-safe cigarettes be sold in Oregon is not an example of government imposing restrictions on personal choice. It is simply common sense. And it is prudent public safety.

Fire-safe cigarettes feature thin bands of less-porous paper in the wrapper that slow down a burning cigarette. When left unattended, a fire-safe cigarette will extinguish itself.

Oregon needs to join a handful of other states in adopting this legislation and helping protect innocent victims and nature from the actions of careless smokers.