12 Days of Holiday Safety: Day 11 = Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

December 23, 2013

By now, virtually everyone understands the health risks of smoking. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. It causes many diseases and reduces the health of smokers in general. But it also remains the number one cause of fatal fires.

In recent years, the decline in smoking, the effect of standards and regulations that have made mattresses and upholstered furniture more resistant to cigarette ignition, and more recently, adoption of fire-safe cigarette requirements throughout the country, have led to a decrease in smoking material fire deaths over the past 31 years.

Still, 540 civilian deaths in the United States were attributed to smoking material fires in 2011. 2011 saw an estimated 90,000 smoking material fires resulting in $621 million in direct property damage.
The City of Madison Fire Department and The Department of Public Health for Madison & Dane County remind residents that smoking materials greatly increase the risk of fire for everyone.

One out of four fatal victims of smoking-material fires is not the smoker whose cigarette started the fire.

Older adults are at highest risk of death or injury from home smoking material fires, even though they are less likely to smoke than younger adults.

During the holiday season and throughout the year, please remember these guidelines:

  • Use a deep, sturdy ashtray. Place it away from anything that can burn.
  • Before going to bed, and especially after parties, check under furniture cushions and around places where people smoke for cigarette butts that may have fallen out of sight.
  • Keep cigarettes, lighters, matches, and other smoking materials up high out of the reach of children, in a locked cabinet.
  • Never smoke where medical oxygen is used. Medical oxygen can cause materials to ignite more easily and make fires burn at a faster rate than normal and can make an existing fire burn faster and hotter.
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