Tobacco-Related Fire Deaths Drop to Second-Lowest Since 1980

The number of U.S. deaths from fires caused by lighted tobacco products fell to the second-lowest since 1980 as more states mandated that cigarettes have safety protection, and fewer people smoked, a safety group said.

Fires caused by smoking killed 680 U.S. people in 2008, compared with 720 in 2007, according to a statement today from the National Fire Protection Association. The figures exclude firefighter fatalities. The blazes caused 1,520 injuries and $737 billion in property damage in 2008, the group said. The low was 640 deaths in 2002.

Fires from smoking products have declined 66 percent since 1980. By February, all 50 states had passed bills that require cigarettes with a lower propensity for burning when left unattended, the association said. New York was the first state to pass such a law, in 2003, according to the NFPA. Smokers can reduce risk by going outside to light up and abstaining when they’re tired or intoxicated, the group said.

“To prevent a cigarette fire, you have to be alert,” the NFPA said. “You won’t be if you’re sleepy, have been drinking, or have taken medicine or other drugs.”

The percentage of U.S. adults 18 years and older who were smokers totaled 20.6 percent in 2009, down from 24.7 percent in 1997, according to the website of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

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