During summer time, and its heatwaves, we talk a lot about forest fires. And one of the causes of these catastrophes is tobacco.
Actually, when you think about the risks linked to tobacco, you first think about health risks such as cancer or cardiovascular / pulmonary diseases. But tobacco’s role in fire outbreaks is undeniable: it is allegedly the number 1 cause of fires in Europe.
This phenomenon is not new since, according to Mediapart, there are many stories in the past of devastation brought by tobacco. One of those fires caused by tobacco caused 82 deaths in France in 1949 and a large part of the Landes area was destroyed. More recently, in July 2017, one single cigarette butt, which was thrown away by a driver lead to an 800-hectare fire in Saint-Cannat, located in the South-East of France.
The examples are numerous and also concern factories, planes or houses. Since the Middle-Age and until the 17th century, thousands of houses have been destroyed by the flames caused by tobacco. Sometimes entire cities even disappeared. Changes in construction material and modern fire detection devices have since then enabled to reduce fire outbreaks.
Cigarettes are now forbidden in closed spaces, such as planes, in some public places (restaurants) or in places containing flamable materials (factories), which led to a reduction of fire hazard.
What are the options for smokers?
As far as houses are concerned, to reduce the risks of fires (caused by smoking in bed for instance), we cannot recommend strongly enough the use of fire detectors, which are still scarcely installed, especially among smokers and despite the fact that their use is mandatory in France. The use of electronic cigarettes is also an excellent option to consider, since it enables to both lower fire risks and health risks.
Finally, some cigarettes that are less flamable, RIPs, could offer a better alternative. These cigarettes aim at reducing the oxygen flow and at reducing fire hazard. These cigarettes seem to be quite successful in the countries that have implemented them, leading to a reduction of tobacco-caused fires by two thirds.