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Feeling the burn: Smokers urged to butt out as fire damage from cigarettes soar

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11 Jan 2019
With temperatures set to soar in Melbourne and across the state on Friday, Quit Victoria and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) are urging Victorian smokers to be cautious when disposing of cigarette butts to help reduce the risk of fires.

The warning comes after a cigarette sparked a fire that caused substantial damage to a property in Albion just after Christmas. Fortunately none of the five residents who were home at the time sustained injuries, and MFB firefighters were able to stop the blaze from spreading to the neighbouring properties. 

Quit Victoria Director Sarah White urged smokers to realise that the possible impact of smoking extended beyond health.

“The impact of fires started by cigarette butts can range from small fires in bins, through to devastating bushfires,” Dr White said.

“The latest estimates show smoking-related fires cost the Victorian economy around $28.6 million per year. And when you add the cost of smoking-related litter, reduced workplace productivity and healthcare too, these costs add up to a staggering $3.69b in tangible costs to the Victorian economy every year*.

“There’s a simple way to reduce the costs of fires caused by cigarettes - encourage and support your friends, family and work colleagues to quit.”

MFB Chief Officer Dan Stephens said that firefighters respond to more than 10 fires caused by cigarettes every month on average across the Melbourne metropolitan district alone. 

“It’s vital that people living in the city have fire risk front-of-mind on hot days,” Dan Stephens said.

“Careless disposal of smoking materials can quickly start a fire, especially in a high risk area like on a balcony, in a street bin or near grass and parklands. 

“On a hot or windy day, these fires have the potential to spread quickly and cause substantial damage to property and can put lives in danger. 

“If you’re a smoker please fully extinguish smoking materials and dispose of them in heavy, high-sided ashtrays to avoid starting a fire.” For quitting advice, visit quit.org.au or call the Quitline on 13 7848.

Quit is a program of Cancer Council Victoria, and is funded by Cancer Council Victoria, VicHealth and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). For more information, visit: www.quit.org.au 

For more home fire safety tips from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade visit:  www.mfb.vic.gov.au/Community/Home-Safety.html

*Fire-related costs were derived from an analysis of the tangible social costs of smoking for Victoria, which are estimated to be around $3.7b per annum. The analysis suggests that reducing daily smoking in Victoria to a prevalence of 5% would result in the saving of $4.042 billion in tangible costs by 2025.

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