Fire Injuries, Disasters, and Costs from Cigarettes and Cigarette Lights: A Global Overview

Bruce N. Leistikow,  Daniel C. Martin,  Christina E. Milano

Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, University of California, Davis, California, 95616-8638

Preventive Medicine, 2000, 31 (2):91-99

Background. Fires cause 1% of the global burden of disease. Fire (includes explosion) disasters have immense health, social, and environmental costs. We will provide initial estimates of overall U.S. and global fire tolls from smoking.

Design. We tabulated and summarized smoking-related fire and disaster tolls from published documents. We compared those tolls to U.S. fire, burn, and fire death rates per billion cigarettes extrapolated globally. Smoking-attributable percentages of adult and child access to cigarette lighter and match ignitions (lights), and resultant fires, burns, and deaths ignited by young children, were estimated from likely smoking-attributable lights usage. Cigarette plus cigarette lights fire tolls were multiplied times published and estimated fire costs.

Results. Smoking is the leading cause of residential or total fire death in all eight countries with available statistics. Smoking is a leading cause of fires in many more countries. Cigarettes cause numerous fire disasters. Cigarette lights cause an estimated 100,000 U.S. and one million global, child-playing fires per year. Cigarette lights fire injuries likely rival U.S., and possibly global, cigarette fire injury numbers. Smoking causes an estimated 30% of U.S. and 10% of global fire death burdens. Smoking's estimated U.S. and global fire costs were $6.95 (sensitivity range $5.34-22.8) and $27.2 (sensitivity range $8.2-89.2) billion, respectively, in 1998 U.S. dollars.

Conclusions. Smoking likely causes large global fire tolls. U.S. fire tolls have fallen when smoking decreased. Further reducing smoking can substantially reduce fire and disaster tolls. Copyright 2000 American Health Foundation and Academic Press.

Key Words:  smoking; fires; burns; risk factors; smoking; child; preschool; cost; wounds; injuries; blast injuries.

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