Fire-safe buy cigarettes have made a huge difference in the number of residential cigarette-related fires in the last two years, but this year they've had a negative impact on the city's wildfires.

Since Oklahoma legislators passed a bill in 2008 requiring cheap cigarettes to meet fire safety standards, officials have seen a decline in house fires caused by smoking cigarettes materials.

There were 404 of these type fires in Oklahoma City in 2008, 290 in 2009 and 269 in 2010, Fire Battalion Chief Tim Adams said.

“The thing about these cigarettes online is that they're aimed at reducing fatality fires,” Adams said. “Even one death is too many.”

This year, there have been 168 fires in the city from smoking cigarettes materials. Tinder-dry conditions have boosted the fire danger and fire-safe cigarettes are no protection against a wildfire if a lit cigarette is discarded carelessly.

Cigarette fire deaths

Lorraine Carli, spokeswoman for the National Fire Protection Association, said cigarette fires were the leading cause of home fire deaths in the U.S. That's why a national campaign was launched several years ago urging tobacco companies to manufacture fire-safe discount cigarettes and all states to require them.

She said 40 percent of smoking cigarettes material-related fire victims are 65 or older and 34 percent are children of smokers.

“This was a great initiative and will make a significant difference in the fire problem,” she said.

“Back in the '70s or so, we'd see 8,000 a year die in home fires. That number has now dropped to 3,000.”

Oklahoma City fire statistics lump fire deaths and injuries together. There were eight in 2008, five in 2009, seven in 2010 and one this year.

Falling asleep

Adams said cases in Oklahoma City often involve people falling asleep with lit cigarettes for sale that catch couches, mattresses and other household objects on fire.

Midwest City Fire Marshal Jerry Lojka said elderly people and those impaired by alcohol or medication seem more likely to fall asleep with cheap cigarette online still burning.

He said he has been a supporter of fire-safe buy cigarette online for several years and worked to get the Oklahoma legislation passed.

“We basically said to Philip Morris, ‘we're going to move ahead with this. We're going to pound on this until we get it,'” Lojka said. “We're tired of having people die in house fires with unattended cigarettes.'”

Lojka said he's had several people accuse him of ruining the taste of their cigarettes.

“I've gotten my fair share of negative feedback from smokers,” Lojka said. “If we can save lives, that's good with me. We haven't had a fatality in two years. It's working and that was our goal.”

Azam Kahan, manager at the SM No. 2 Quick Stop in Oklahoma City, said people didn't seem to care about the different taste, adding “they just want cheap cigarettes.”

National campaign

New York was the first state to pass the initiative in 2004 and has since seen a reduction in the number of smoking cigarettes material-related fires, Carli said.

She said Oklahoma wasn't an early adopter of fire-safe cigarettes, but it wasn't the last state to jump onboard either.

“The last state to go in effect was Wyoming,” Carli said.

“Once the ball got rolling, there was less and less opposition.”

Some smokers in Oklahoma were upset about the change, claiming the buy cigarette online had an awful taste and were more likely to burn their clothes. All 50 states have now passed legislation in an attempt to reduce cigarette-related fire deaths, Carli said.

She said the NFPA's campaign has helped educate people about the dangerous of cigarette-related fires and the benefits of having safer cigarettes.

“A quarter of people who died were not the smokers,” she said. “It's not only a fire safety issue for people who smoke cigarettes but people who live with smokers.”

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