We’re not just blowing smoke about fire safety

Soak cigarette butts before disposal.

Even though smoking among adults has been on a steady decline since 1965, smoking is still the No. 1 cause of home fire deaths in the United States, according to the United States Fire Administration. If you smoke – or live with a smoker – use caution when handling smoking materials, such as cigarettes, pipes, cigars, matches and lighters, to keep you and your family safe.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked adult smoking from a high of 42 percent of adults in 1965 to just 18 percent in 2012. This reduction is attributed to increased public awareness regarding the health risks associated with smoking, concerns for clean air and state or municipal laws that limit smoking in public places.

In 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 90,000 fires started from smoking materials, resulting in an estimated 540 deaths and 1,640 injuries, not counting any firefighter deaths or injuries. These fires caused $621 million in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The USFA and NFPA offer these tips to prevent fires caused by smoking materials:

  • If you smoke, think about quitting
  • If you smoke, consider switching to fire-safe cigarettes, which have a reduced ignition strength and are less likely to cause a fire
  • When you smoke, smoke outside
  • Use deep, wide ashtrays placed on a sturdy surface indoors and a can filled with sand outdoors
  • Extinguish all smoking materials (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, etc.) prior to leaving the room or area
  • Soak cigarette butts and ashes in water before throwing them into the trash
  • Check under furniture cushions for cigarette butts that may have fallen out of sight
  • Stay alert! Don’t smoke in bed, and put out cigarettes if you are feeling drowsy
  • Make sure working smoke alarms are properly installed on every level of your home to alert you in case of fire
  • Use dual-sensor smoke alarms that detect both a flame-driven fire and a smoky fire that produces fumes without flames
  • Never smoke in a home where medical oxygen is in use
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children

Smokers who would like to quit can find Quit Smoking tips from the CDC.

The United States Fire Administration offers Fire Safety Facts for Smokers and People Who Live With Smokers.

The National Fire Protection Association offers additional research on The Smoking-Material Fire Problem, including a Fact Sheet.

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