A total of 114,800 smoking-material fires resulted in an estimated 680 deaths, 1,520 injuries and $737 billion in direct property damage in 2008. (Smoking materials are defined as lighted tobacco products, but do not include matches or lighters.)
Smoking-material fires have been down by 66% from 1980 to 2008. NFPA’s report (PDF, 257 KB) says this long-term trend is due to fewer people smoking, and to standards and regulations that now require mattresses and upholstered furniture be made with materials more resistant to cigarette ignition, among other factors. However, the most recent drop in smoking-material fire fatalities can also be attributed to “fire-safe” cigarette legislation, which mandates that cigarettes be produced with reduced ignition strength, and carry a lower propensity for burning when left unattended. NFPA launched the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes in 2006 with the goal of getting fire-safe cigarettes in every state across the country. Prior to the formation of the Coalition, two states had passed legislation. As of February, all 50 states had passed similar bills. The laws are now in effect in 47 states.
According to Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of communications, nearly all home smoking-material fires are unintentional, and are most often caused by some human error in control or disposal.
“Widespread use of safeguards like fire-safe cigarettes, which can minimize or altogether prevent the damage incurred by smoking-material related mishaps, serves as a critical step for further reducing the nation’s fire problem,” said Carli.
In 2003, New York was the first state to adopt a fire-safe cigarette requirement. By the end of 2008, a total of 18 states across the country implemented the law. From 2003 to 2008, when the percentage of smokers covered by the law rose from 0% to 21-29%, the number of smoking-material structure fires fell 14%, and the number of civilian deaths dropped 16%. When the law is fully effective (in late 2012), simple projections show that the fire reduction rate should reach 50-70%, and the civilian fire death rate should drop by 56-77% (both relative to levels in 2003, the last year before the fire-safe cigarette law was effective in any state.)
“We are thrilled to see the intended consequences of fire-safe cigarette legislation,” said Carli. “It is clear that the initiative has already made an impact on public safety and that further progress will be achieved over the next few years."
Other notable findings from NFPA’s report show:
As with virtually all types of fires, there are many steps people can take to prevent smoking-material fires. NFPA and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) worked collaboratively to develop the following safety tips, which primarily focus on safe storage and disposal of cigarettes:
About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
NFPA is a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.
Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275