Cigarettes and Residential Fires: New Report

Which of these is most likely to cause a fatal fire in your home?

A.  Cooking in your kitchen.

B.  Leaving candles burning in your bedroom.

C. Heating your home with a portable heater.

D.  Smoking cigarettes

The answer is D — smoking cigarettes.

If you smoke or live with someone who smokes cigarettes, you should take note of the 2012 fire safety report issued October 31 by the U.S. Fire Administration:

Fires related to smoking cigarettes are the leading cause of death in residential buildings.  Fires related to smoking cigarettes accounted for 2 percent of home and apartment fires and 14 percent of all fire deaths, according to the USFA report.

Most of these fires — 67 percent — were caused by abandoned or discarded cigarettes and other smoking materials.  Nearly 1 in 4 smoking-related fires occurred in bedrooms.

The victims of such fires are not just smokers, but their children and other family members — even friends and neighbors who live in nearby homes.

In 2004, New York became the first state in the country to initiate fire-safe cigarette legislation.  The law required that cigarettes sold in New York be manufactured with fire-resistant paper so that an abandoned cigarette would less likely burn through the paper and ignite a mattress or other material.

Despite the fire-saftey initiative, cigarette smoking continued to be the leading cause of home fire deaths.

The Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes, supported by the National Fire Protection Association, urged all states in the country to pass similar laws. The lobbying efforts worked, and the coalition reported that  “One hundred percent of the U.S. population is now better protected from cigarette fires thanks to state passage of fire-safe cigarette legislation.”

But cigarette smoking continues to be the leading cause of fire-related deaths in people's homes.  Some 7,600 smoking-related fires occur in residential buildings each year, according to the report issued last week by USFA.

Electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, are not ignited by matches or cigarettes.

An electronic cigarette simulates the smoking of a traditional cigarette.  They are battery-powered, two-part devices.  A cartridge that contains liquid ingredients — water, nicotine, propylene glycol and flavoring — and a heating element.  The battery-powered heating element warms the liquid until it emits a steam – a vapor that the smoker inhales.

An e-cigarette emits no smoke, creates no hot ashes.

The Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes, having successfully pushed for improved standards for traditional cigarettes across all 50 states, should get behind a truly fire-safe cigarette: electronic cigarettes.

To urge firefighters to support electronic cigarettes as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, contact the coalition.

To learn more about electronic cigarettes, click here.

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