Although fires resulting from cigarette, pipe and tobacco smoking are less than 5% of the total 40% of fire related deaths in the home are caused by smoking. Nationally, on average someone dies every three days as a result of a fire caused by cigarettes and in addition there are more than 800 non fatal casualties a year.
Despite the smoking ban cigarette related fires in business premises like the hotel in Shetland still occur. For the present at least cigarettes are manufactured to stay alight, and as they burn at approximately 700 degrees centigrade they are capable of igniting most solid combustibles.
If you have a smoker in your home or have employees that smoke then heeding the following safety advice may avert a tragedy.
- Smoke outside if possible and have a suitable receptacle such as a sand bucket or stand for discarded butts.
- Make sure you fully extinguish your cigarette, cigar or pipe when you have finished smoking it.
- Don’t leave lit smoking products unattended – As they burn down they can overbalance and ignite furnishings, carpets or newspapers.
- Use a purpose made heavy metal or ceramic ash tray.
- You are more at risk when you’re tired or have been drinking alcohol. Smokers nodding off in a comfy chair are at the greatest risk so take extra care.
- Never, ever smoke in bed.
- Never discard butts or tip ash into a wastebasket. Put water in the ash tray then tip into an outside bin.
- Keep all matches and lighters out of reach of children. If possible use child-proof lighters and matchbox holders.
- Install a smoke alarm
Employers should provide a safe environment for smokers preferably a smoking shelter away from the main building or at the very least a fire-proof ashtray to stop smokers discarding cigarettes close to a building.
Accept that smoking is an addiction and that smokers will always find ways and means to satisfy their craving. It is better to accept this and make adequate safe provision to protect your premises and employees.
If you are a smoker and want to stop contact your GP. There are some excellent programs and free medication to help you quit the habit.