Caring for smokers.

If you support a vulnerable person who smokes, here's how to make them as safe as possible from a fire safety perspective. 

Quitting, vaping and being a safer smoker

Our top fire prevention suggestion would be to stop smoking

The best way to prevent smoking-related fires is to stop smoking. It has been the top factor in fatal fires for many years. So if you're caring for someone who smokes start by encouraging them to quit. You could save their life in more ways than one. Find help and advice on the NHS Smokefree website or alternatively or seek community based support with StopSmokingLondon.

Vaping is less harmful than smoking

If the person you care for isn't ready to stop, reducing risks is the next best thing. Vaping (E-cigarettes) can be helpful for stopping smoking and are less harmful, but they are not risk free and still need to be used safely. If they switch to e-cigs, make sure they buy a good quality device, and learn to charge it safely. We have a page where you can learn more about about vaping safely.

London Fire Brigade want people to stop smoking. Let's explain the risks in this short video.

Be vigilant to save lives

Signs it's time to act 

If you see any of the below in the home of the person you care for you should take immediate action:

High-risk smoking warning signs

  1. Does the person smoke anywhere they may fall asleep?
  2. Does the person smoke near any oxygen-based equipment?
  3. Have they dropped cigarettes on floors, furniture or clothing?
  4. Have you noticed scorch marks on the floor, furniture or clothing?
  5. Are their ashtrays overflowing? 
  6. Are their ashtrays within easy reach?

Smoke alarms

  1. Do they have enough smoke alarms fitted?
  2. Do they only have a smoke alarm fitted in the hallway. There should be an alarm in every room where a fire could start?
  3. Does their smoke alarm actually work? Are they able to test their alarms at least once a month? – Working smoke alarms save lives.
  4. If the person you care for has Telecare fitted, is it linked to smoke alarms?

Other risk factors

  1. Response – could they respond to a fire or a smoke alarm and escape without help?
  2. Mobility – could the person escape from a fire without help?
  3. Does the person use products like emollient or skin creams (including lotions, ointments, gels or sprays)? These may be water-based, contain paraffin or natural oils. Emollient/skin cream residue on fabrics such as bedding, clothing and dressings can increase flammability
  4. Does the person use an airflow mattress? 
  5. How do they light their cigarettes? Lighters are safer than matches, as a dropped match can start a fire?
  6. Do they smoke alone? Encourage them to only light up if there is someone around to make sure they are safe. 

Time to act

Fire safety advice when caring for smokers

As a carer, we understand that you have a lot of responsibilities. But by taking action, you can save a life or prevent serious injury.

10 small steps to safer smoking 

  1. Talk to the person about a home fire safety visit.
  2. Point out the risks to the person as they may not be aware of the danger.
  3. Let them know that it's never too late to quit – and that vaping is less dangerous than smoking. 
  4. Encourage them to only smoke if there's someone at home with them.
  5. Always provide proper ashtrays and empty them regularly.
  6. Make sure ashtrays are within easy reach. 
  7. Don’t let the person smoke in bed or where they sleep.
  8. Tell them to never smoke when using oxygen.
  9. If they need to use emollient and skin creams, tell them not to smoke.
  10. Use our free Home Fire Safety Checker to get the right advice for you and your household.
Person using the Home Fire Safety Checker on their smartphone.

Worried about someone you care for?

We have a simple tool that can guide you around the home helping you spot fire risks, or we can carry out a visit ourselves.

Home Fire Safety Checker (HFSC)

Extra information for formal and informal carers, support workers and other health care professionals

Carers, support workers and other health care professionals have access on a daily basis to people’s homes and living spaces. They play a vital role in the assessment of high risk individuals.

  • If you are a formal carer, support worker or other healthcare professional, record and report your concerns to your line manager so an action plan can be put into place.
  • If you are an informal carer, reduce any risks that you are able to, and notify other agencies such as Social Services to enable them to take swift and appropriate action as required.
  • Use our online resources such as the Home Fire Safety Checker, or download the Checklist for Person Centred Fire Risk at the bottom of this page – this will help you identify areas of risk to the person you care for. You can also contact us to request an in-person Home Fire Safety Visit.
  • If the person you care for or support is also in receipt of other care, or other agencies are also involved with them, do share your concerns so that you are all working together. Make sure that fire risk is included in the person’s care plan including things like using flame retardant bedding, appropriate management of emollient and skin creams, and how to care for people who smoke.
  • Communicate with the person’s family or other supporting agencies to consider how Telecare can help to keep vulnerable people safer.
  • Consider training to help you spot signs that may indicate the person you care for is at risk of injury from fire – and learn what steps you can take to reduce those risks.
FREE e-Learning with Telecare Services Association


Consider limited mobility

If the person you care for is bed bound or spends most of their time in a chair, they are particularly at risk. Please consider their needs and make sure appropriate measures are taken so they can safely escape if there is a fire. Learn more about escape plans from homes, and escape from workplaces (like residential care homes).

Useful downloads

Person Centred Fire Fisk Assessment

Download PDF (51kb)

Means of escape for disabled people leaflet

Download PDF (900kb)

Easy read fire safety at home booklet

Download PDF (4,415kb)