SELLING ‘SAFER’ CIGARETTES…. The AP reports that laws went into effect yesterday in five states — Delaware, Iowa, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas — that mandate the sales of “slow-burning and fire-safe” cigarettes. The five joined 17 other states that already had laws on the books. (thanks to reader R.K. for the heads-up on this)

The paper on these “fire-safe” cigarettes is thicker in two separate spots so they will go out if not puffed when they burn to these areas. The idea is to prevent fires caused when cigarettes are left unattended. […]

About 800 Americans die each year in fires caused by careless smoking and the coalition estimates that number will be reduced if at least half the states pass the law.

“There has been a rash of smoking materials deaths,” Oklahoma Fire Marshal Robert Doke said Monday. “A cigarette will fall into overstuffed furniture or mattresses when people fall asleep, or it rolls off an ashtray and on to the carpet, then the possibility for ignition happens.

“This cigarette is supposed to snuff out before it can cause enough heat to start a flame.”

Now, I have nothing against these laws, and if they can prevent deadly fires and save lives, I can only hope every state will pass similar measures.

That said, I can’t help but find all of this a little odd. Yes, about 800 Americans die every year from fires caused by “careless smoking,” but 440,000 Americans die every year as a result of smoking cigarettes properly.

If I understand this correctly, cigarettes that kill a relatively small number of people quickly have been or will be banned in most of the United States. At the same time, cigarettes that kill a huge number of people slowly are perfectly legal, and largely unregulated.

Something seems wrong with this picture.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.