“Smoking Kills” not only the smokers but also the people around. Now, you might assume that this is a blog about the health hazards of passive smoking, especially meant for those who are exposed to the nicotine fumes by just being close to a smoker. But, no. We are here to talk about a much bigger hazard of smoking. Smoking has been identified as the number one reason for all the fire accidents occurring across India. That is quite startling, isn’t it? One would assume that the usual culprits such as electrical short-circuit, gas leakage, fire crackers and chemical reaction would be the leaders in this, but they are not! A study by A.P. Fire Services Department identified smoking as the leading cause of fire outbreaks in their state. Their findings are significant enough to support their synopsis. The study found that unextinguished cigarette butts had accounted for 2,410 fire accidents within a span of seven years in Andhra Pradesh! In these fire outbreaks property worth of several crores had been destroyed. And we are still, only talking about Andhra Pradesh!
Now, let us relate these findings, by A.P. Fire Services Department, with the rest of the country. India is gradually taking its step towards becoming the smoking capital of the world. Today, India has 12% of the world’s total smokers! And more than 90% of the active smokers get careless while throwing away their cigarette ends! So, if every smoker can be deemed as a fire threat, it is a miracle that the country is not up into flames yet, just literally! While figures suggest that nearly 1 million people die every year due to smoking, the statistics does not quite include the deaths of those who suffered mortality in fire accidents started by the careless acts of the smokers.
The Indian government has tried to control the smoking menace by banning smoking in public places. But, is this the solution? Not at all, for smokers somehow find a way to bypass this norm. There is also a lack of strict enforcement of such a rule. As a result careless smoking is ongoing in every city across the nation. One would deem that extinguishing the cigarette before chucking it away was a common practice. But you are up for a surprise even then. As mentioned before, 9 out of every 10 Indian smokers have the habit of throwing away the lit cigarette ends after they are finished with their indulgence. And worst still, smokers in most instances do not even bother to survey the area where they are throwing away the cigarette butts. And as would be the logical outcome, fire accidents happen!
Now, let us examine some real life scenarios where careless smoking practices can lead to fire accidents.
Just a few months ago newspapers across Hyderabad were ripe with the news of a fire mishap caused at the multistoried Babu Khan Estate office space in Basheerbagh. It was learned that the fire first broke out on the eleventh floor of this building. What caused this fire? It was the act of an employee who casually threw away a burning cigarette butt into a pile of waste papers dumped around the corner. The fire started from the balcony of Sony Enterprises Software Solutions and then spread across the building. Though the fire could be controlled on time, but such incidents can easily be avoided with some steadfastness on behalf of the smokers. This is one among thousands of such careless acts, employees (who are smokers) showcase at their workspaces. Such an instance can be easily avoided by ensuring that the cigarette butt is extinguished before throwing it away.
But, an ounce of the blame should also be shared by the building authorities. To make buildings safer, and protect it from careless smokers, there should be a provision for special smoking zones. Within these smoking zones, the employees can enjoy their time as well as not put the lives of others at risk. Most important requisite in the smoking zones should be the placement of one or multiple bins filled with sand. The sand can extinguish the existing flame when a lighted cigarette is thrown into the bin.
Factories and Chemical Plants
Apart from being seen as a leading source of pollution, the chemical plants and factories are highly susceptible to fire accidents. A flicker can easily get these spaces up in flames within no time at all. As there are so many fires causing reasons behind a fire outbreak at a chemical plant or factory that smoking can never be traced as the culprit. With so many combustible items lying around, the factories as well as the chemical plants, mostly have a no smoking code close to their working area. But that does not avoid the danger of fire outbreak from a careless act by smokers. The employees use any open space within the campus to light their cigarettes and smoke away. Again, the easiest way to avoid fire outbreaks in such spaces is to have a strict rule of smoking in certain designated areas only.
Home is a place to relax and just be you. So, while at home smokers take all the liberties. But a lazy smoke, lying on your bed, could have your house up in flames! Smoking on the bed should be avoided at every cost. Coupled with the air circulating fans, the flicker that drops from a cigarette could prove costly for the entire family. Apart from this, there should be ashtrays at strategic points within the house, where the smoker can stack the cigarette butts after a good smoke. This will ensure that smoking does not end up in a catastrophe.
Millions of innocent people die each year due to fire accidents caused by careless smoking. What is their fault? If you can save all those lives by being a bit more careful, then isn’t it worth the effort? And mind you, your own life can change just because you chose to be casual when you needed to be careful, because as the saying goes: Those who light the fire get their hands burnt first! So the next time, and each time, you light a cigarette be careful about dumping it. If everyone does their due, the fire accidents caused by smoking could come down significantly making our lives a bit safer than before.