BOSTON (CBS) – Last year 19 people were killed in Massachusetts in fires that were sparked by smoking materials. To cut down on those deadly fires, a law was passed in the state requiring manufacturers to design cigarettes to stop burning when no one is smoking them.
But the I-Team found that doesn’t always happen and a loophole in the law is keeping authorities to from cracking down on manufacturers.
According to Massachusetts Fire Marshal, Peter Ostroskey, anytime there is a fatal fire in the state, his office tests the brand and lot of the cigarettes to make sure tobacco companies are meeting the state standard.
Each cigarette is required to have two bands on each cigarette. The bands are less porous sections of the outside paper of the cigarette, they are designed to slow the burning and eventually extinguish the cigarette if the user isn’t smoking it.
“We’ve had some occasions when that isn’t happening,” Ostroskey explained.
In fact, the I-Team has learned that over the last few years, the makers of Newport and Maverick cigarettes paid the Commonwealth hundreds of thousands of dollars and agreed to take their faulty products of the shelves in Massachusetts.
According to Jim Desimone, who runs the fire standard complaint program for the State Fire Marshal’s office, some random testing uncovered problems with some brands.
“If we find a bad run, we’ll have the company go to all the retailers and remove that run. Then I’ll go out again to make sure the new run is doing what it is supposed to do,” he said.
With the help of MSR labs, the same company the Fire Marshal’s Office uses, the I-Team randomly tested cigarettes and found while some passed, others did not. CEO Mark Simonds told us if a cigarette fails the test, it is more like to cause a fire.
But here’s the tricky part. The law doesn’t require every cigarette to pass the test. Ten out of every 40 cigarettes are allowed to fail.
State Representative David Linskey says it’s time for a change.
“Absolutely time to take a look and tighten up the standards,” he said. “No one wants to take a one in four chance of dying in an unnecessary cigarette fire,” he said.
Last year there were more than 2,600 smoking related fires in Massachusetts alone.
“We continue to see fires from this cause, there’s still work to be done,” Ostroskey said.
We reached out to the top tobacco companies to ask for comment on changing the law to require all cigarettes to be fire standard complaint. No one responded.