Published: 20:47, 21 July 2021
| Updated: 14:32, 22 July 2021
Smokers are being invited to "step outside to feel safer inside" in a campaign to cut down the number of fires.
Even though the number of people who smoke in the UK is dropping, the number of blazes begun by discarded cigarettes is remaining constant, says Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS), with four deaths in smoking-related fires in the past year in the county.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service is urging smokers to light up outside to cut down cigarette fires
In a 30-day-step-outside-challenge, firefighters are urging smokers to move into the garden or street when they want to light up.
Mark Woodward, the service's assistant director for customer and building safety, said: “It may seem strange that we’re not actively telling people to quit smoking but this campaign is for those who aren’t quite ready to give up.
"If they’re going to smoke, we have a duty to try to protect them from the risks linked to their habit. Of course, quitting is the ultimate solution to reducing smoking fire hazards but for those who aren’t currently ready to stop we want to encourage them to smoke outside instead of inside."
Many cigarette fires start when smokers light up and then fall asleep or get distracted, or when they throw cigarettes away or bin them while still hot.
KFRS says these causes are often avoidable and so has launched a campaign called Smoke Outside, Feel Safer Inside to urge people who smoke indoors to smoke outside instead. It goes live on Monday, August 9.
Participants will have access to a private Facebook group. The first 15 to sign up will receive a £15 high street shopping voucher. Those who do not use Facebook can take part by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by 9pm on Sunday, August 8.
Mr Woodward said: "Whether it’s a garden, courtyard, balcony or outside the front door, smoking outside means the fire risk to them, their home and belongings and their loved ones is significantly reduced.
"Such a simple tweak to the routine will make smokers more focused, more alert and more aware to take care. It’ll also make indoors a more pleasant place to be and reduce secondhand smoke for others in the household."
He added: "Remember to stub cigarettes and other smoking materials fully in an ashtray and only place in a bin once cold.
“We do recognise that not all smokers will be able to go outside. Where someone has difficulty with mobility, we have other fire prevention options available.
"Our Safe and Well team can identify if items such as fire retardant blankets and bedding, as well as carpet spray, would be appropriate and can provide them for free where required.”
To request a free Safe and Well home visit call 0800 923 7000.