by Diana Tuazon
PERMIAN BASIN - As the threat of grassfires looms over the Basin, State lawmakers lend a helping hand to fire fighters all across the Lone Star State.
For years, firefighters have been trying to get cigarette makers to create a safer product, and starting on New Year's Day, they'll get their wish after a new law goes into effect
Last year, cigarettes caused raging wildfires across West Texas, but firefighters hope new "fire safe" cigarettes will stomp those out.
"That's a wonderful thing. We've got lots of grass fires that people carelessly flick their butts out the window and we're right in the middle of it," West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jimmy Ellis, said.
The new fire safe cigarettes are wrapped with several bands of low-permeability paper.
They'll go out on their own if they're not actually being smoked and will self-extinguish in about three minutes, before they put themselves out.
Some smokers like the new cigarettes.
"Some of them say that's great, because they're not wasting so much money on their cigarettes burning up, others are saying I'd rather just smoke my cigarette," Store Owner Connie Johnson, said.
Some say they can't even tell the difference without checking the pack, the new ones will be marked FSC above the barcode.
But not everyone's on board.
"Harsh rough taste in your throat, and they constantly go out, and have to relight them all the time," Customer Kathy McDaniel, said.
Even with the switch in fire safe cigarettes, retailers say business is steady.
"Doesn't affect our sales. People that smoke are going to continue to smoke," Johnson said.
Even if the new fire safe cigarettes are intended to eliminate fire accidents, firefighters say that the only way to truly prevent a fire is to be sure to put out all cigarettes before disposing of them.
"It doesn't take but a second. What's a second compared to your life? Or losing your house or someone else's life?" Ellis said.
The new fire safe cigarettes are already sold in stores throughout West Texas, but actual enforcement of the law will begin in January 2010 which will allow retailers time to sell all their existing inventory of old cigarettes.