ANNAPOLIS, MD -- Standing in a plaza dedicated to the state's fallen fire and rescue personnel, Gov. Martin O'Malley on Wednesday lauded first responders for their tireless effort to get fire-safe cigarette legislation on the books.
Moments after making the remarks, O'Malley signed the law requiring tobacco manufacturers to sell only self-extinguishing cigarettes after July 2008.
Maryland is the 13th state to enact fire-safe cigarette legislation.
O'Malley said the firefighters should be pleased with their victory. He praised them for coming together for the cause, and seeing it through. "Your leadership and the manner in which you lobbied impressed me...."
The governor said he got the message just how important the fire-safe legislation is, and its impact on citizens and firefighters.
"...and Mr. John (Jack) Frazier...this bill was so very, very important to him..."
The legislative liaison for the Baltimore City Fire Dept., Frazier suffered a massive heart attack in April just hours after the General Assembly passed the bill. He died two days later.
Maryland Fire Marshal Bill Barnard said the law should not be considered anti-smoking, but as a life-safety measure. In the past decade, 175 residents in the state have died in blazes attributed to smoking materials.
"Every time a firefighter goes out the door, their lives are in danger..." Barnard said.
The fire marshal said he was pleased that legislators listened, and understood they had the opportunity to help save lives.
Delegate James E. Malone, one of the bill sponsors, stared at the memorial a few feet away. "It's important we remember the men and women who died saving us..."
He paused when his voice was drowned by a flyover, which many saw as a fitting tribute.
House Leader Thomas V. Mike Miller pointed to the engines parked at the sides of the heroes' monument -- Clinton Vol. Fire Department and Annapolis. "Career and volunteers came together..."
Maryland State Firemens' Association President Bobby Balta said he appreciated the combined effort to get the law through the General Assembly.
"It may have taken us a few years, but it was worth it," he said. "It's a good thing for citizens and firefighters..."
Burn survivors have pushed legislation for self-extinguishing cigarettes across the country. They've shared personal stories and losses.
"It's well worth all the work. We're happy to see so many states have passed or are considering the law. It's exciting to see the ball rolling down hill. We'll do anything to help save someone..." said Amy Acton, executive director of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors.
Other states with fire-safe cigarette laws include New York, California, Vermont, Illinois, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Utah, New Jersey, Oregon and Montana.