More people die in fires caused by smoking than in fires caused by anything else. Tobacco is manufactured to stay alight, meaning it can remain smouldering and start a fire.
Safety tips if you smoke
Cigarettes burn at 700ºC and contain chemicals which keep them alight. Follow these safety tips to avoid causing a fire:
- never smoke in bed – it’s very easy to fall asleep and allow your cigarette to set light to your bedclothes or furnishings
- don’t smoke if you’re drowsy – especially if you’re sitting in a comfortable chair or if you’ve been drinking or taking prescription drugs
- don’t leave a lit cigarette, cigar or pipe lying around – they can easily overbalance and land on the carpet or other flammable material
- make sure your ashtray is heavy and can’t tip easily
- make sure your cigarette butts (and any remains in your pipe bowl) aren’t still smouldering when you’ve finished with them; wet them and empty your ashtray into a metal bin outside the house
- keep lighters, matches and smoking materials out of the reach of children – you can also buy child-resistant lighters and containers for matches
Since 2005 a coalition of organisations including the NFCC, UK Fire Services and Health and Tobacco Control groups called for the introduction of a fire safer standard for cigarettes in Europe. These standards were introduced in November 2011.
Although fire safer cigarettes reduce the risk of a lit cigarette causing a fire when left unattended (they are designed to self-extinguish if not smoked) they do not remove the fire risk.
FRSs nationally have raised concerns over the trade in illegal tobacco as it is unlikely that cigarettes which are illegally manufactured and traded will comply with fire safety standards.
There are generally three types of illegal cigarettes which find their way on to the market in the UK:
- “Illicit white” cigarettes which have no legal market in the UK. These are cigarettes legally mass manufactured in factories in Russia and the Far East and imported illegally to the UK. Duty has not been paid and the appropriate health warnings and images might not be present.
- Counterfeit cigarettes which are illegally manufactured and sold by a party other than the original trademark or copyright holder.
- Genuine cigarettes which are smuggled into the UK without duty paid. As well as cigarettes made for the UK this may include cigarettes intended for sale in another country that have been smuggled into the UK or duty free cigarettes being illegally sold, rather than kept for personal use.
Some of the above may contain even more harmful 'substitute' substances and may not be manufactured to industry standards which may affect the burn and how they react when stubbed out.
If you would like to quit smoking, call the NHS Stop Smoking Helpline on 0800 1690169 or visit the Go Smoke Free website
There are an estimated 2.9m adult vapers in Britain, almost all of whom are smokers and ex-smokers
In March 2016 it was reported that there were 113 fires caused by e-cigarettes in three years.
Key messages for vaping include safety messages for all rechargeable electronic devices: