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What's Smoking? Cigarettes
And Structure Fires
the Social Diary Safety Educator Columnist Monica Zech
Column #3, January 14th, 2006
If you follow the news locally, you may have noticed the
sudden increase in "fatal" home fires caused by "cigarettes."
It's no surprise to officials at the National Fire Protection
Association. As you'll see in the following 2004 study, "cigarettes"
are the leading cause of "fatal" fires in the U.S. As
a result, there's a move to require all cigarettes be self-extinguishing
to help reduce these fatalities. If you smoke, or have relatives
or friends that smoke, have them read the following report. To
improve your health and safety "stop smoking", but
until then, use extreme caution when smoking. Do not smoke in
bed and never smoke if connected to or near an oxygen tank. That
was the cause of a recent fatal fire in Escondido. Here's that
NFPA study finds a stunning increase in cigarette-caused
The number of fires caused by lighted tobacco
products – almost always cigarettes – increased by
a stunning 19 percent in the most recent year studied, according
to research by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association).
But laws requiring that cigarettes be designed to stop burning
when not actively smoked, such as the one that went into effect
in New York state, could sharply reduce this destruction.
Cigarettes are the leading cause of fatal fires in the
United States. Smoking materials (a category that encompasses
only lighted tobacco products, not matches and lighters) led to
one out of four fire deaths in 1999, more than any other cause
But only the state of New York
has moved to protect its citizens from such fires. As
of June 28, 2004, cigarettes sold in New York must be self-extinguishing,
and all cigarette brands must be tested to make sure they self-extinguish
at least 75 percent of the time.
NFPA's statistical analysis sheds
light on how cigarettes lead to fatal fires. Contrary
to the popular image, most victims of smoking-material fires did
not fall asleep smoking. Many are not even smokers. Rather, these
fires typically started when someone abandoned or improperly disposed
of smoking materials. (Note: Many of the cigarette related fires
we've had recently were people who fell asleep while smoking,
another while smoking and drinking)
Most victims were in the room where the
fire started, and most had some condition that limited their ability
to get out. Often they were asleep, but a significant number were
impaired by drugs, alcohol, disability or old age. Indeed, people
older than 64 are more likely to die in smoking-material fires
than younger people, even though they are less likely to smoke.
In 1999, smoking-material fires increased
19 percent over the previous year to 167,700, resulting in 807
civilian deaths, 2,193 civilian injuries, and $559.1 million in
direct property damage. Deaths and injuries both decreased by
11 percent from 1998 to 1999, but property damage costs, adjusted
for inflation, increased by 33 percent.
"Cigarette fires are a major
cause of death that we know how to address,'' said James M. Shannon,
NFPA president and CEO. "A cigarette touching something
combustible can take significant time to produce a fire. Cut down
the burning time of cigarettes and you can prevent fires."
Note: Please make sure you have
a "working" smoke alarm in your home. Change smoke alarm
batteries at least twice a month and test your smoke alarms at
least once a month. And discuss a home escape plan with your family.
And very important, if you have young children lock away or store
away in a high place all matches and lighters. Nearly 85-percent
of the victims of child-set fires are the children themselves,
especially those age 5 and under. Proper supervision is key in
preventing child-set fires and other child related injuries.
fire safety information visit www.nfpa.org
or for fire safety lecture contact me at (619) 441-1615.
Monica Zech is the Public Information
Officer and Safety Educator for the City of El Cajon and for El
Cajon Police and Fire Departments. For safety tips please
visit El Cajon
Fire.com In community work, Zech is the Vice
President on the board for the Trauma Research Education Foundation-TREF
and a board member with Communities Against Substance Abuse-CASA.
In March, Monica received the County's 2005 Individual Health
Champion Award for her safety lectures in the community and throughout
the county. Zech's
to New this Week.....Monica
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