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Smoking Reduction Reduces Home Fire Deaths

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Home fire deaths are higher in states that have a greater percentage of smokers, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study published this month in the journal Injury Prevention. If smoking at home is reduced or stopped, fewer residential fire deaths may result, the study said.

Smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths and accounts for approximately one quarter of the 3,000 home fire deaths in the United States each year. Quitting smoking, as well as following fire safety recommendations related to smoking, can help reduce the risk of cigarette-related home fire deaths. For free telephone-based counseling from anywhere in the United States, smokers can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a national number that connects people to their state-based quit line.

This study is the first to use national data to look at the percentage of current smokers and home fire deaths in the District of Columbia and all U.S. states except Hawaii. Nationally, an estimated 21 percent of adults smoked in 2004, with state averages ranging from 11 percent (Utah) to 28 percent (Kentucky). In that year, an estimated 2,804 individuals died in home fires, or nearly one death per 100,000 people in the United States.

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“Our study suggests that even modest reductions in overall smoking rates may save lives. In fact, quitting smoking is the most important step smokers can take to improve their overall health and that of their loved ones. People who do smoke should smoke outside the house to help protect themselves and their families from home fires and exposure to secondhand smoke, a known human carcinogen,” said Shane Diekman, Ph.D., M.P.H., a behavioral scientist at CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

People who continue to smoke can reduce the risk of indoor fires by adopting strict smoke-free home rules; using deep, sturdy ashtrays securely set on tables; dousing cigarette and cigar butts in water or extinguishing with sand before dumping in the trash; and never smoking in bed or leaving burning cigarettes unattended. And everyone can reduce their risk of being harmed in a residential fire by making sure to have a working smoke alarm at home and testing that alarm regularly to make sure it is working.

“Home fire deaths have declined during the past several decades, and this decline has paralleled reductions in smoking,” said Ileana Arias, Ph.D., director of CDC's Injury Center. “We work hard to keep our homes safe, and it just makes good sense to help people understand that if they can change their smoking habits, we may continue to reduce these tragedies.”

The study used CDC's Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data.



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