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Smoking  Poses a Serious Fire Risk

Cigarettes are one of the leading causes of fatal fires in the U.S. The National Fire Protection Association reports that roughly one out of every four fire deaths in 2005 involved smoking materials.

In 2005, there were about 82,400 smoking-materials fires that caused 800 civilian deaths and 1,660 civilian injuries. In Baltimore County, fire investigators say that smoking-related fires rank with cooking and electrical fires as the three most common types of accidental fires.

Who's At Risk?

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

Contrary to popular image, most victims of smoking-materials fires do not die in bed after falling asleep smoking. Most of these victims aren't even smokers. Instead, they are people who become trapped in a house or apartment by a fire that starts when someone improperly disposes of a cigarette or other smoking materials.

Often, the victims of these fires are people with physical limitations that make it difficult or impossible to get out: older people, children, the disabled and those impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Safety Tips

If you are a smoker, fire officials urge you to follow these safety tips:

  • Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. Test batteries every month and change them at least once a year.
  • Keep smoking materials away from anything that can burn (mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture, draperies, etc.)
  • Never smoke in bed or when you are drowsy, medicated or have been drinking.
  • Use large, deep, non-tip ashtrays to prevent ashes from spilling. Do not rest ashtrays on sofas or chairs.
  • Douse butts and ashes with water before throwing them in a trashcan. They can smolder in the trash and cause a fire.
  • Whenever anyone has been smoking in your home, always check on, between and under upholstery and cushions and inside trashcans for butts that may be smoldering.
  • If grandchildren or other children visit your home, keep matches and lighters high and out of reach, or in a locked cabinet.
  • Consider switching to fire-safe cigarettes.

Fire-Safe Cigarettes

Some states, including New York, Massachusetts and Maine, have enacted laws requiring fire-safe cigarettes - cigarettes that are self-extinguishing. and other states, including Maryland, are considering similar legislation.

For information about disposal of smoking materials and other fire safety information, call the Fire Department's Division of Community Awareness and Safety Education at 410-887-3344. Or, visit the National Fire Protection Association.

Revised July 3, 2013

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