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Kentucky bans traditional cigarettes

/ Source: The Associated Press

Traditional cigarettes essentially will be banned from this tobacco-producing state under a new law limiting sales to so-called fire-safe versions.

Kentucky is joining seven others that require the special smokes in an effort to prevent fires ignited by cigarettes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

"Kentucky, with its rich tobacco history, makes a statement that this is very much a public safety initiative," said Lorraine Carli, a spokeswoman for the group.

The law requires cigarettes that are wrapped in thin bands of slow-burning paper and go out when the burning tobacco is no longer being puffed.

"The value of this kind of cigarette is priceless," said Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who quietly signed the bill into law Friday and planned to join lawmakers Tuesday in a ceremony announcing it.

The measure was propelled by a Feb. 6 house fire that killed 10 people in Bardstown, southeast of Louisville. Investigators suspect the blaze was started by a smoldering cigarette dropped into a chair after one of the victims had fallen asleep.

Nationally, 700 to 900 people die each year from fires caused by smoking materials such as cigarettes, according to the fire protection association.

Law will be enacted next year
About a third of fire deaths in Kentucky are caused by blazes sparked by cigarettes or other smoking materials, according to the state fire marshal's office. Kentucky also is among states with the highest incidence of adult smokers in the nation.

The law takes effect next year, giving manufacturers time to adapt.

Philip Morris USA, the nation's leading cigarette maker, supported the legislation, said David Sutton, a company spokesman.

"For customers, the cigarette products will be offered at the same list price as those sold elsewhere," Sutton said. "Bottom line for the customer, there is no change in price."

Kentucky joins California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Utah and Vermont in requiring the safer cigarettes. Carli said at least 18 other states are considering similar legislation.