Fire! The Other Fatal Risk of Smoking
Cigarette and smoking related fires are among the top causes of fire related fatalities. These fires often involve the ignition of mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture or trash by improperly discarded cigarettes, ashes or matches. Understanding what makes smoking fires so dangerous and what you can do to help prevent them can help you keep your home and family safe.
Why are Smoking Fires So Dangerous?
Several factors contribute to the high fatality rates of cigarette and smoking fires. Smoking materials are often in close proximity to people. In fact, a leading cause of smoking fire fatalities involves the person falling asleep or passing out with a lit cigarette. The lit cigarette ignites the mattress, couch or upholstered furniture where the person is sleeping and because the fire is so close to the person upon igniting, it is difficult to escape harm.
Top factors contributing to the lethality of smoking fires are:
- People are often slowed by alcohol or medication when a cigarette fire starts.
- Materials in upholstered furniture ignite quickly, consume a great deal of oxygen and release toxins.
People are often asleep when the fire ignites.
Matches, Lighters and Children
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than two out of three home fires were started by children under the age of six. It is believed that one reason for this is that many children are fascinated by matches and lighters. Children often see their parents or other adults using matches and lighters and try to emulate their behavior.
To ensure their safety and help prevent house fires, adults should teach children that:
- Matches and lighters are not toys and children should never play with them because they may accidentally start a fire.
- If they do start a fire, they will not be in trouble and should tell an adult immediately.
- If there are no adults in the house when a fire starts, they should leave immediately and go to a neighbor’s house where they can call 911.
Adults can set a good example by not fidgeting with or using lighters in a playful fashion while children are present. Also, children may be drawn to more colorful and decorative lighters so consider purchasing less conspicuous models.
Prevent Smoking Fires in Your Home
Smoking in your home puts everyone at risk – not only from secondhand smoke but also by increasing the risk of a smoking related fire. Taking the following steps can help prevent cigarette and smoking related fires in your home:
- Never smoke in bed, when you're tired, or when taking medication that may make you drowsy.
- Never smoke in a house after consuming alcohol.
- Use large, heavy, non-tip ashtrays and always place them on flat stable services; never use your lap or a couch cushion.
- Use child resistant lighters and matches and keep them out of the reach of children.
- Douse smoking materials with water when you're done smoking.
Refrain from smoking in your house altogether and do not allow others to smoke in your home. Best of all, consider quitting smoking to decrease the risk of fire and improve your health.
Cigarette Fires on the Decline?
According to the NFPA, the number of smoking-related fires has dropped significantly in recent years. In fact, the number of smoking-related fires is down 73 percent from 1980 to 2011. Several factors contribute to this trend, including the overall decline in the number of smokers and the introduction of the “fire-safe” cigarette, designed to prevent continued burning when not being smoked.
In 2003, the US began requiring that cigarettes be manufactured with a reduced propensity to burn. From 2003 to 2010, smoking fire related deaths fell by roughly 20 percent.
Keep Yourself and Loved Ones Safe from Smoking Fires
There are many costs and risks associated with smoking and many can be easily avoided. By following the information provided, you can help prevent smoking related fire deaths, injuries and property damage.