Thursday, January 29, 2009

Prisons snuff out tobacco products

Corrections officer Rod Coston spends his afternoons and evenings guarding prison inmates as they walk between buildings at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia.
Most days, he smokes a pack of online cigarettes during his eight hours on the job. But starting next Sunday, Coston won't be able to turn to his favorite stress reliever while he's at work.
The state's 41 prisons go tobacco-free that day. Until then, inmates and prison staff can continue smoking in outdoor prison areas, although they haven't been able to smoke inside since the 1990s.
"I don't even know if I'm capable of going eight hours without a cigarette," said Coston, 46, who smokes around 20 cigarettes a day on the job and another pack away from work. "It's part of me, and I don't know if I can physically do it. I won't know until I do walk in on that day and see if I can get through the day."
Corrections officials began moving toward the total tobacco ban a year ago, when lawmakers put language into the 2008 corrections budget bill requiring prisons to be tobacco free.
The department offered inmates smoking cessation classes as it readied for the ban to take effect. Inmates have been able to buy fewer cigarettes and more nicotine patches and gum at prison stores in recent months, and no cigarettes have been sold since Jan. 1. Visitors have been told they won't be able to bring tobacco products into the prisons.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cigarettes debut in America

Peuple wonders: Would a Pennsylvania law that took effect Jan. 1 requiring stores to sell only "fire-safe" discount cigarettes have a made a difference?
Raiford's mother and brother died in a July house fire in Homewood that investigators blame on an errant cigarette. Cora Mae Raiford, 83, was overtaken by flames and smoke on the second floor of her house. Kenneth Raiford, 56, who investigators believe was smoking on the porch, died in West Penn Hospital after suffering burns over most of his body.
"I don't believe God makes mistakes," Raiford said last week. "But if had been in place, who knows if things would have turned out differently.
"I am always going to miss my mother and brother. Sometimes you have got to protect people from themselves, and this is an opportunity to do that."
Fire-safe burn more slowly and self-extinguish if left unattended. Pennsylvania is one of 22 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, that mandate them. Fifteen other states have laws that will take effect this year or next, according to the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes.

The law will save lives, say advocates and fire officials.

"Cigarette-related fires are the leading cause of home fire fatalities, killing an average of 700 to 900 Americans a year," said Lorraine Carli, spokeswoman for the National Fire Protection Association. "We are very optimistic that these types of cigarettes will make a significant improvement."
The paper in fire-safe cigarettes is thicker in two or three spots -- rings of less-porous paper that create "speed bumps" to prevent the smoldering paper from progressing toward the butt if the smoker does not take a drag often enough.
Critics say the fire-safe smokes taste different and the paper forces them to suck harder on the cigarette to keep it burning.
"The feedback has been mixed," said RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. spokesman David Howard. "It's different and it obviously takes some adjustment. We tell customers there has been no change at all in the blend. ... Yes, we've heard some (negative) reactions, but others have said they see no change at all."
RJ Reynolds will sell only fire-safe cigarettes by 2009, even in states that do not mandate them, Howard said.
Bill Phelps, a spokesman for Altria, parent company of Phillip Morris USA, said the cigarette manufacturer will continue to make fire-safe and regular cigarettes. He said Phillip Morris would like to see a national standard put in place rather than a patchwork of state laws. Past attempts to implement federal legislation failed, prompting a shift in strategy to seek state requirements, said U.S. Fire Administrator Gregory Cade.
Howard and Phelps said using fire-safe papers costs more than using standard papers, but the companies and not consumers will absorb the price increase.
Fire-safe cigarettes could save lives of smokers and nonsmokers, said Pittsburgh Deputy Fire Chief Colleen Walz.
Cigarettes that are dropped into wastebaskets or on furniture can smolder and then ignite after the smoker leaves the area, putting others at risk, she said.