Thursday, December 29, 2005

Careless Smokers Kill 5, Destroy 100 Homes And Historic Church In Texas And Oklahoma Fires

Public officials begged smokers not to smoke in areas of Texas and Oklahoma, suffering from severe drought conditions. But the lure to smoke the nicotine drug is just as strong as that of heroin. Smokers could not comply with the public ban on smoking in high risk areas.

Careless smoking in Texas and Oklahoma caused serious fires. In one town of just 1,000, Cross Plains, Texas, 2 elderly women were killed and 50 homes including a 120 year old historic United Methodist Church was going to celebrate the historic churches history with a Sunday celebration. It was a heartbreaking loss to Rev. Jim Senkel, whose stained glass windows broken from the heat. lay among the burned rubble on the ground. For 120 years, the church performed weddings and funerals and was an important part of the town's history. But because of smokers, the town now lacks a place of worship. God's very own house was destroyed by the selfish needs of drug needs of smokers, who placed their own need to satisfy their drug issues above the lives and safety of others.

But this far from uncommon. In 2001 for example, smokers caused 31,200 fires in the U.S., killing 830 persons including 60 children and causing more than $386 million in property damage in destruction of homes, apartment buildings and other structures.

In Oregon, Republican Speaker Of The House, Karen Minnis prevented the vote of a bill mandating the sale of self-extinguishing cigarettes in Oregon after big tobacco lobby efforts. That summer after the legislature closed session, careless smokers caused at least 890 grass and forest fires in Oregon alone.

Unlike other unsafe products which the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission cracks down on, cigarettes continue to be sold and marketed that cause fires. The tobacco lobby which spends more than $2 million a year on legislative lobby efforts has blocked all states except New York from legally mandating self-extinguishing cigarettes. Electric heaters which kill far less persons at 300 per year, and cause far less fires than cigarettes at 31,200 face severe government regulation and safety features such as "tip over switches". Yet the big tobacco lobby has avoided CPSC regulation to build safety features into their cigarettes.

And when used in a proper manner, cigarettes are a leading cause of injury, health problems and death to smokers and nonsmokers alike. An estimated 440,000 smokers and nonsmokers die each year of tobacco related illness. 50 smokers or nonsmokers die each hour from cigarette injuries. And smokers tend to die 12 years earlier than nonsmokers.

By any normal definition, a product that injures or kills both users and nonusers alike would be pulled off the market by the CPSC. Baby strollers that have wheels fall off face regulation. Pajamas made of material that could burst into flames is banned. But the big tobacco lobby is able to keep an unsafe and defective product on the American market.

I strongly urge that all concerned persons contact the CPSC commission and argue for the national use of self-extinguishing cigarettes as well as the development of non-smoke cigarettes to cut the injury and damage to nonsmokers, as well as environmental damage by dumping tons and tons of tar, heavy metals such as nickel and cadmium and the 4,000 other poisoms into the breathing air used by children and those with health problems.

Cigarettes should face no special rights against other dangerous consumer products. Safety features such as self-extinguishing features and non-smoke features should be required by law. Too many deaths and needless fires result from cigarettes.

Despite laws against throwing cigarette butts from motor vehicles, burning cigarette butts remain the most common and dangerous form of litter along America's highways. Every cigarette pack should face a cigarette butt deposit of at least 10 cents per cigarette butt similar to bottle return bills that have cut litter. If stores do not want to bother with handling returned cigarette butts which may contain saliva with hepatitis, cold or flu germs, AIDS or other serious medical risks, then they should stop selling cigarettes. Homeowners and other are forced to pick up these dirty items. State workers have to clean them from beaches, highways and parks. And firemen risk their lives in the fires these cigarette butts cause. Why a reasonable cigarette butt deposit law to cut the number of fires and deaths cannot be implemented is a good question. But litter fines of hundreds of dollars have not worked so far. With bottle return laws, some poor persons collect bottles for spending money. A cigarette butt deposit law would clean up the environment.

The U.S. needs to address the huge safety costs of cigarettes sooner or later. The number of injuries, deaths or fires is simply too great to allow this unregulated defective consumer product to continue to be sold in their present unsafe form.


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