According to the CDC, the number of cigarette smokers in the USA continues to decrease. In 2005, about 20 percent of American adults identified as smokers, but that number fell to 14 percent in 2019. Even though that’s a significant decline, about 14 out of every 100 American adults still smokes cigarettes. Also, with the rise in alternative devices like vaporizers, the percentage of total smokers remains relatively high.
From a fire safety perspective, smokable products remain a pressing problem in the USA. Even with the total decline in smokers, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) considers smoking one of the most common preventable causes of a house fire. Anyone who smokes cigarettes or vapes e-juices must understand how to consume these products without a significant fire risk.
Just How Common Are Smoking-Related Fires?
Data from the NFPA suggests approximately 18,100 home fires in the USA are related to smokable items every year. Although that represents five percent of total house fires, it’s responsible for 23 percent of annual home fire deaths. That translates to a fatality rate of one per 31 fires. There are also over 1,000 injuries due to smoking-related fires and over $470 million in property damage annually.
Most of these fires start in three rooms: a living room, bedroom, or patio/porch. Data from 2012 – 2016 suggested that 18 percent of smoking fire cases began in either an exterior balcony or an unenclosed patio. After that, about 15 percent started in a bedroom, and seven percent started in the living room.
NFPA researchers also examined the most common material that caught on fire. Most recent data suggests flammable items in the trash were responsible for 23 percent of smoking-related fires. However, these “trash fires” weren’t the deadliest. In fact, about four percent of total civilian deaths were related to a fire that started in the trash bin.
It’s more common for smoking fires that start on mattresses or upholstered furniture to result in death or severe injury. Although both materials were in less than 12 percent of total smoking fires, they resulted in over 29 percent of fatalities. In fact, fires caused by upholstered furniture resulted in about 37 percent of smoking fire deaths.
The NFPA also notes that many of the victims in smoking-related fires aren’t the person who started the blaze. About one out of four people killed in a smoking fire aren’t smokers.
What Should Smokers Do To Prevent A Fire?
The easiest way smokers could prevent a house fire is to always use cigarettes outdoors. People should also double-check they have a sturdy ash tray nearby and they aren’t near flammable items.
It’s never a good idea to toss cigarettes on the ground to put them out, especially in an area with vegetation, leaves, or mulch. Smokers should only put out their cigarettes in high-quality ashtrays. If you don’t have an ashtray nearby, spray the cigarette with water when you’re done smoking. This is the easiest way to ensure there’s no risk of burning another item.
For those interested in vaping, please pick a product with a high track record for safety. Many cheaply made e-cigarettes and vape pens could quickly explode while charging. Even if a vaporizer has a good track record, it’s not a good idea to use it while you have it plugged into an electrical outlet. Be sure to stay near this device if it’s charging.
Review Smoker Safety To Avoid A Smoky Home
Although smoking-related home fires are trending downwards, they remain a significant safety issue in North America. Smokers should never forget most of these fires start indoors. Therefore, getting in the habit of smoking outside will dramatically reduce the odds of a catastrophic accident.
Frequent smokers should also invest in a high-quality ashtray. If smokers are conscientious about flammable items around them, they should avoid causing a home fire.