Jonathan Russell's trusty Marlboro Lights were letting him down. They didn't taste quite right. There was a metallic flavor.
The smokes made his throat itchy, too.
"It tasted like a cheaper brand, like a generic brand," the 29-year-old IT specialist said. "Everything's different about it. It's bad."
A convenience store clerk who had been hearing similar complaints let Russell in on what was happening:
Russell was smoking fire-safe cigarettes.
New to the Kansas City area, and spreading rapidly nationwide, these cigarettes are engineered to put themselves out in most cases when a smoker isn't actively puffing on them.
The goal is to prevent the conflagrations that claim hundreds of lives each year when careless smokers let unattended cigarettes drop onto a bed or couch.
Fire safety and consumer advocates fought the tobacco industry for decades to get fire-safe cigarette legislation before Big Tobacco finally relented.
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