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Utah addresses fire dangers caused by cigarettes

Price fire officials work to put out a stucture fire last month. According to the Utah Fire Marshall, 269 smoking related fires and millions in damages took place in the beehive state between 2003 and 2007.

Legislation went into effect July 1 stating that cigarettes sold in Utah must be manufactured to reduce the chance of fire. The purpose of the law is to help reduce fires and fire-caused fatalities in Utah homes and landscapes.

Tobacco products are the leading cause of preventable home-fire deaths in the United States. Data from the Utah State Fire Marshall shows 269 smoking-related fires in the Beehive State between 2003 and 2007, resulting in six deaths, 30 injuries, and millions of dollars in property damage.

Reduced fire propensity cigarettes, commonly called "fire-safe," are made by wrapping additional, less-porous paper, in two or three bands around the cigarette. When the flame reaches these speed bump bands, the burning slows and self-extinguishes.

New York enacted a similar law in 2004 and saw deaths decline from 48 per year to 28.

"As tobacco usage has declined in the U.S., fires caused by smoking have also declined by almost 40 percent since 1980," says David Neville, marketing coordinator, Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, Utah Department of Health.

The term "fire-safe" is really a misnomer, since no tobacco product is safe. This new law aims to reduce the fire danger associated with cigarettes, but the health hazards still remain according to Neville.

"Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, causing cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. It is a leading cause of death in Utah," he stated.

Every day more than 1,500 people nationally under the age of 18 become regular smokers. About one-third of them will eventually die from a tobacco-related disease. Ninety percent of smokers started smoking before the age of 19 and most teens who smoke say if they could do it over again, they would never start. Nearly 200,000 Utahns continue to smoke cigarettes, and more than 1,100 Utahns die annually as a result of this activity.

For more information contact Southeastern Utah District Health Department at 435-637-3671.

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