​​Quitting smoking is hard. Preventing smoking-related fire deaths is not.

June 7, 2021

A damaged room in a home after a fire caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette
This destruction was caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette. If you were in this room, you likely would not have made it out alive.

It's strange to look at the room in this photo and think about what it looked like before fire destroyed it. You can imagine the picture on the wall was a family photo or a beautiful landscape. You can imagine a family gathered around the TV, laughing at their favorite show together.

Perhaps you can also imagine the last person to leave the room. Maybe he had a few beers after a long day. Perhaps he thought a cigarette would cap off the night perfectly, but felt too tired to go outside. So instead he sits in his favorite chair, smoking, until he dozes off and the still-burning cigarette slips from his fingers. Does a smoke alarm's piercing beep wake him? Or does he never wake again?

If he dies, he joins the three other people who died in smoking-related fires so far this year in Minnesota. That puts careless smoking as the top cause of fire deaths this year. It's not surprising considering smoking is historically the leading cause of fire deaths year after year. And although fire deaths in general are down 52 percent compared to this time last year (15 compared to 2020's 31), the fact that something so preventable continues to happen at all is horrifically tragic.

Over the past five years (2017-2021), 40 people have died in smoking-related fires. Here are some other facts about them:

  • Their average age is 61.
  • Fifty-six percent of them are male.
  • The majority (63 percent) lived in greater Minnesota; the others lived in the seven-county metro area.
  • All died in single-family homes, most likely in their living room or bedroom.
  • Perhaps most concerningl​​y, 43 percent had a measurable blood alcohol level, and 40 percent of those had a BAC over .08.

Anyone who has ever smoked can tell you it's incredibly hard to quit. But it's not hard to smoke outside, put out your cigarettes in a sturdy container filled with sand or water, and never smoke around medical oxygen. In short, it's not hard to do the things that can save you from dying in a fire started by your cigarette.

And perhaps you don't smoke. But odds are you know someone who does. Please share this information with them. Talk to them about how smoking can kill them more ways than one. Show them this photo, and tell them you don't want their living room to look like that. You don't want them to become a statistic.