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Cigarette Fires Involving Upholstered Furniture in Residences: The Role that Smokers, Smoker Behavior, and Less-Fire Prone Cigarettes Play



David T. Butry, Douglas S. Thomas


Residential structure fires pose a significant risk to life and property. A major source of these fire incidents 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. The NFPA estimates that 28 % of residential upholstered furniture fires were ignited by smoking materials and they account for 58 % of the residential fire deaths. In recent years, states have adopted less fire-prone cigarettes (‘LFP 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 less fire-prone 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 low-fire potential 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, LFP 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.
Fire Technology


fire standard compliant cigarettes, reduced ignition propensity cigarettes, fire, residential fire, less fire-prone cigarettes, cigarettes, upholstered furniture fires


Butry, D. and Thomas, D. (2017), Cigarette Fires Involving Upholstered Furniture in Residences: The Role that Smokers, Smoker Behavior, and Less-Fire Prone Cigarettes Play, Fire Technology (Accessed June 20, 2024)


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Created May 1, 2017, Updated April 18, 2017