Fast-forwarded video of a regular burning cigarette and a new fire-safe cigarette reveal the true difference between the two. The fire-safe cigarette puts itself out in just three minutes while the regular cigarette burns for 16 minutes, all the way to the filter. If the smoker of that cigarette fell asleep, it could have started a fire.
"On a national basis, unattended smoking materials is the leading cause of home fires and it accounts for between 700 and 900 home fire deaths every year across the country," said Columbia Fire Department Captain Eric Hartman.
Parts of the new cigarettes are wrapped in thicker paper which acts as a speed bump, slowing the rate of burn.
"There's no doubt that it certainly would reduce the number of fires and then reduce the severity of those fires because you've the cigarettes that would burn out before many fires are started," said Hartman. "But when with the slow-burning nature of these cigarettes, you would certainly get more notification, quicker notification of those fires."
A two-alarm fire last week at the Links apartment complex in Columbia was determined to be caused by an improperly discarded cigarette. So Hartman and other firefighters would like to see only fire-safe cigarettes on mid-Missouri shelves.
When will that be? Maybe sooner rather than later.
I talked to Jefferson City State Representative Mark Bruns by telephone. He says he will re-introduce a bill that would allow only fire-safe cigarettes to be sold in Missouri. Bruns sponsored the same bill in the last session, but he says he introduced it too late to get it through the hearings process. Bruns says there was little opposition from other state lawmakers at that time.
The American Cancer Society says fire-safe cigarettes are just as dangerous to a person's health as regular cigarettes. And Capt. Hartman says people should never smoke in bed or on combustible furniture, espeically when feeling tired. He also says it's important not to empty ash trays into indoor trash cans.