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Cigarette Fires Involving Upholstered Furniture in Residences: The Role that Smokers, Smoker Behavior, and Fire Standard Compliant Cigarettes Play


Residential structure fires pose a significant risk to life and property. A major source of these fires is the ignition of upholstered furniture by cigarettes. It has long been established that cigarettes and other lighted tobacco products could ignite upholstered furniture and were a leading cause of fire deaths in residences. In recent years, states have adopted fire standard compliant cigarettes (‘FSC cigarettes’) that are made with a wrapping paper that contains regularly spaced bands, which increases the likelihood of self-extinguishment. This paper measures the effectiveness of FSC cigarettes on the number of residential fires involving upholstered furniture, and the resulting fatalities, injuries, and extent of flame spread, while accounting for the under-reporting of fire incidents. In total, four models were estimated using fire department data from 2002 to 2011. The results provide evidence that FSC cigarettes, on average, reduced the number of residential fires by 45%, reduced fatalities by 23%, and extent of flame spread by 27% in 2011. No effect on injuries was found. Within each state, effectiveness is moderated by the number of smokers and their consumption patterns. In general, FSC cigarettes are more effective in places with a large smoking population who engage in heavier smoking. There is a very limited effect on the lightest of smokers, suggesting behavioral differences between heavy and light smokers that influence fire risk.

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  1. 1.

    These cigarettes are also known as ‘fire-safe cigarettes’ and ‘fire standard compliant cigarettes’.

  2. 2.

    In NFIRS, extent of flame spread is recorded for non-confined fires as either: (1) confined to room of origin, (2) confined to floor of origin, (3) confined to building of origin, or (4) beyond building of origin.

  3. 3.

    For purposes of this analysis, residential fires included all NFIRS incidents with a property use codes beginning with a ‘4’ (residential) and an incident type code 111 (building fire, excluding confined fires).

  4. 4.

    Flame spread is reported as either: confined to object of origin, confined to room of origin, confined to floor of origin, confined to building of origin, or beyond building of origin.

  5. 5.

    A weighted average was used to aggregate each count into a single metric. The weighting weighted confined to object of origin as zero up to beyond building of origin as four.


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Correspondence to David T. Butry.

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Butry, D.T., Thomas, D.S. Cigarette Fires Involving Upholstered Furniture in Residences: The Role that Smokers, Smoker Behavior, and Fire Standard Compliant Cigarettes Play. Fire Technol 53, 1123–1146 (2017).

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  • Fire safe cigarettes
  • Reduced ignition propensity cigarettes
  • Prevention
  • Statistics
  • Loss
  • Damage