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FOR RELEASE: January 25, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Burn Awareness Week Spotlights Cigarette-Related Residential Fire Injuries and Deaths

Cigarettes are the second leading cause of residential fire injuries and deaths in Oklahoma, behind heating devices. According to data collected by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), there were 79 burn injury victims from cigarette-related residential fires from 1995-1999. Eighty percent of these burn victims died.

The Injury Prevention Service and Tobacco Use Prevention Division of the OSDH want to call attention to these preventable cigarette-related injuries and deaths during National Burn Awareness Week, February 4 – 10.

Data indicate that males were more than twice as likely to be injured as females. Forty-nine percent of persons injured were asleep when the fire started and almost a third of the injuries occurred between midnight and 4 a.m. Fifty-six percent of the burn victims had been drinking alcohol.

Nationally, cigarettes are the single leading cause of fire deaths with economic costs at $4 billion per year, including health care, lost productivity, personal property losses, pain and suffering costs. According to the National Fire Protection Association, cigarette-related fires cause about 1,000 deaths and 3,000 injuries each year.

Cigarettes are typically manufactured to burn when unattended, thereby increasing the number of cigarettes consumed. When dropped, the cigarette can burn through the cover of a seat cushion or a mattress and smolder for hours. This produces toxic carbon monoxide that may cause sleeping victims to fall into a deeper sleep before the cushion or bedding burst into flames.

For many years, health officials have recommended strict cigarette fire safety standards to help prevent cigarette fires and injuries. The tobacco industry has actively opposed such efforts. According to an 1992 internal Philip Morris tobacco company memo, “Efforts by anti-smoking groups to mandate a 'fire safe' cigarette could destroy the competitiveness of leading brands and increase the cost of manufacturing cigarettes.”

For more information on cigarette-related residential fires, contact the Injury Prevention Service at 405/271-3430 or 1-800-522-0204.

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