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Smoking time bomb: cigarettes the most deadly cause of house fire fatalities

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Smokers urged to ‘put it out, right out’ on No Smoking Day 9 March. Smokers are being reminded today that careless disposal of cigarettes is…

Smokers urged to ‘put it out, right out’ on No Smoking Day 9 March.

Smokers are being reminded today that careless disposal of cigarettes is the single biggest killer in house fires. Habits such as smoking whilst drinking alcohol in the home or lighting up in bed are responsible for one in three (36 per cent) of all accidental house fires resulting in deaths.

With a steady decline in the number of smokers in England, the overall number of fires triggered by cigarettes is small, but with over a third of all fire deaths in the country attributed to cigarettes the proportion of fatalities is staggering.

To coincide with National No Smoking Day (9 March 2011), the Fire Kills campaign is urging smokers to realise the deadly dangers of lighting up in the home. Smokers not giving up should still be aware of the fire risks they face, cut out dangerous habits, install smoke alarms on every level of the home and test them weekly. A working smoke alarm means you are more than twice as likely to survive an accidental house fire.

Sheila Pendlesbury sadly lost her grandson Shaun in house fire triggered by a cigarette.  She said:

Shaun was only 27 year old when he died. He had a daughter and a bright future ahead of him. His loss is something we as a family will have to live with. But it hurts enormously to know something as basic, as a working smoking alarm could have alerted him to the fire and possibly saved his life.

The Government’s Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser Sir Ken Knight said:

Without an early alarm system in place you could lose valuable escape time in a fire. Just two to three breaths of toxic smoke can render a person unconscious. As well as the health dangers, people need to be aware of the deadly risks of smoking in the home and how smoking materials can very quickly and easily lead to a fire.  When extinguishing cigarettes smokers must make sure they ‘put it out, right out’ and if possible refrain from smoking in the home at all.

For smokers not ready to kick the habit this No Smoking Day, it is important to follow these simple precautions to prevent a fire at home:

  • put it out, right out! Make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished
  • fit a smoke alarm and test it weekly. A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999
  • never smoke in bed. Take care when you’re tired. It’s very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning and set furniture alight
  • avoid drugs and alcohol when smoking. It’s easy to lose your concentration when using any sort of drugs or drinking alcohol, combined with cigarettes and this could be lethal
  • never leave lit cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended - they can easily overbalance as they burn down
  • use a proper, heavy ashtray that can’t tip over easily and is made of a material that won’t burn.

For further information on fire safety visit www.direct.gov.uk/firekills (external link).

Notes to editors

The Fire Kills campaign is the national fire safety campaign delivered by the Department for Communities and Local Government. The campaign aims to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by accidental dwelling fires by actively encouraging people to change their behaviour and attitudes towards fire safety.

For more information on the campaign please contact:
Betty Nwosu on 020 261 8849 / betty.nwosu@coi.gsi.gov.uk

For more information on fire safety policy, please contact:
The Fire Kills newsdesk on 0303 444 1201/ communications-newsdesk@communities.gsi.gov.uk 

No Smoking Day is organised by the charity No Smoking Day. For more information and advice on giving up smoking and No Smoking Day visit: www.nosmokingday.org.uk (external link).

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