Michigan smokers are firing up new cigarettes after a new law requiring fire-safe cigarettes went into effect Jan. 1.
But, while fire-safe cigarettes are meant to extinguish easily to prevent fires, cigarette consumers are already burning-up over the new product.
Michigan is the 49th state to add the safety regulation to cigarettes.
In Northern Michigan the cigarettes marked FSC for Fire Standard Compliant began trickling into stores during the past several months. About the same time store owners began receiving complaints about the new product.
Nicky Williams, an employee at the Next Door Store in Petoskey said Thursday — before Jan. 1 — the store had already made the change to fire-safe cigarettes.
“We have (the fire-safe cigarettes) in all of our current cigarettes brands,” Williams said. “But, we still have some of the old ones.”
She said “everybody” has been complaining about the new cigarettes and asking to buy the old version of cigarettes.
Smokers say the “speed bumps” or rings of paper added to the cigarettes have had negative impacts to the flavor of the tobacco.
“The thing I hear most is they taste like smoking a rope,” said Chet Zaremba, the owner of Matches Discount Cigarettes and Tobacco in Petoskey.
A smoker himself, Zaremba said he has begun smoking Pyramid brand cigarettes, because they use a different paper that that of Phillip Morris USA, and other large cigarette companies.
Fatima Ellis, a cashier at the Harbor Springs South E-Z Mart, where all their cigarettes were already FSC, echoed the same complaints by customers.
“All the boxes we have now have the FSC on the side,” Ellis said. “But, people have been complaining that they taste a lot different and go out easily.”
The complaint that the FSC cigarettes extinguish unexpectedly is another primary complaint.
Under the new law, the fire-safe cigarettes are required to burn out at least 75 percent of the time when not being smoked.
Ellis said although she doesn’t smoke, she thinks it is a good idea that the cigarettes go out to prevent people from burning themselves if they fall asleep.
Nationally, the National Fire Protection Association recorded 780 deaths in the United States in 2006 because of cigarette-started fires.
On Thursday, before the New Year holiday rang in the new law, smokers in Northern Michigan were making a mad dash to stock up on the older version of their favorite smokes.
“People are going, believe it or not, from business to business looking for the old cigarettes,” said Scott Winfield, the store manager at the Holiday Station in Charlevoix.
Winfield said when customers would find out his store doesn’t carry the old cigarettes they often would leave.
“If we don’t have them, they say they are going somewhere else,” Winfield said. “We even have people say they are going to quit because they can’t take them.”
Stores continuing to sell the unsafe cigarettes could face penalties of up could face a penalty of $100 per pack.
Nationally, an organization called Citizens Against Fire Safe Cigarettes has began collected signatures to repeal the new laws. According to the organization’s Web site, more than 10,000 signatures were already collected earlier this fall.
While the complaints have been widespread, cigarette company Phillip Morris USA says it is only following the new legislation requirements.
“The company uses a banded paper that adds some additional rings of paper or layers of paper to the cigarette,” said Bill Phelps, the senior communications manager at Phillip Morris USA. “As the flame passes over those rings, it increases the likelihood of the flame extinguishing.”
As for the different taste, Phelps said the banded-paper technology was the only change his company has made to the cigarettes.
“That’s the change in the product,” he said. “We have noticed feedback from the consumers that consumers are saying their cigarettes are going out more frequently. That is typical.”
January 4, 2010
By Brandon Hubbard, Petoskeynews