London Fire Brigade

Smoking fire deaths down but still a major issue, says Brigade

11 March 2015

Fires caused by smokers carelessly disposing of cigarettes have fallen by a quarter since the introduction of fire safe cigarette standards, new figures released today reveal.

Prior to the introduction of the new standards at the end of 2011, there were around 21 fires a week caused by cigarettes not being stubbed out properly, causing 20 deaths in 2010. 

In 2014, there were just eight deaths and less than 16 fires a week caused by the careless disposal of cigarettes, cigars or pipes. 

The Brigade believes the lower figures could be the first sign that new safer cigarettes, pioneered by London's fire chiefs, are resulting in a reduction in the number of people dying in smoking related fires.

Since November 2011, every cigarette made in the EU has had to meet new safety standards so the cigarette, once lit, goes out if it is not actively smoked. The cigarettes have special bands at intervals down the length of the cigarette paper so they extinguish themselves when they are not puffed on.

However, the Brigade is still concerned the overall number of smoking related fires is reducing at a slower rate than expected, which could be down to illegal or counterfeit cigarettes.

European Union Safety Standards

Fire chiefs are urging all smokers to only buy cigarettes that meet European Union safety standards and to make sure they are put out, right out.

Third Officer Dave Brown, said: "Smoking vastly increases the risk of having a fire in your home. If you are a smoker it is absolutely vital that you make sure your cigarette is completely out when you have finished it. If you don't you are at risk of starting a fire that could destroy not only your home, but your life and the lives of your loved ones.

"We are pleased to see fire deaths reducing but we cannot become complacent. Never smoke illegal cigarettes or those that don't conform to European Union safety standards, as these do not have the special design that helps them go out if they are left burning."

The new figures also show that there have been just seven fires involving e-cigarettes since 2014. The number of fires caused by the devices is extremely low compared with traditional cigarettes but could increase with more users especially if they use incorrect chargers.

Dave Brown continued: "We are calling on e-cig retailers to ensure they are selling the correct chargers for the cigarettes. As with all rechargeable electrical equipment, it's vitally important that people use the correct type of charger for their e-cigs to prevent fires."

Our safety advice

The Brigade has the following advice for smokers:

  • Put it out, right out - always make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished
  • Take extra care when you're tired or have been drinking alcohol. It's very easy to fall asleep without realising that your cigarette is still burning
  • Never smoke in bed - if you need to lie down, don't light up. You could doze off and set your bed on fire
  • Fit and maintain a smoke alarm on each level of your home - when a fire starts, you only have a few minutes to escape. A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and dial 999

Smoking is the most common cause of fire death in the home. Read more safety information here.