FRIDAY, Feb. 14, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A Massachusetts law requiring that only fire-safe cigarettes be sold in the state reduced the number of residential fires there, a new study shows.
Researchers examined data on accidental residential fires that occurred in the state between 2004 and 2010, including 1,629 fires that were caused by cigarettes.
They found that those caused by cigarettes fell 28 percent after the fire-safe cigarettes law took effect in 2008. The largest declines were in fires caused by situations such as people falling asleep while smoking or cigarettes igniting flammable materials.
The results were published online Feb. 13 in the American Journal of Public Health.
"This study is the first rigorous population-based study to evaluate the effectiveness of the fire-safe cigarette standards, and shows that science-based tobacco product regulation can protect the public health," study author Hillel Alpert, a research scientist at the Center for Global Tobacco Control at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a school news release.
According to the U.S. National Fire Protection Association, fire-safe cigarettes are designed to reduce the risk of a cigarette continuing to burn if left unattended. This lowers the chances of a fire if a cigarette is accidentally dropped or left on a flammable surface.
"This study confirms that the [law] has reduced the number of fires from cigarettes started by igniting furniture and bedding, as it was designed to do," Massachusetts Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said in the news release.
Cigarettes are a leading cause of residential fires in the United States. Each year, cigarette-related fires cost millions of dollars in property damage, lost productivity, health care, injuries and deaths.
According to the news release, those most at risk from such fires include young children, seniors, blacks and Native Americans, rural residents, those who are poor or live in substandard housing and firefighters.
"We now have the science to support that all tobacco companies throughout the world should voluntarily make their cigarettes less likely to ignite fires," Gregory Connolly, director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control, said in the news release.
The U.S. National Fire Protection Association has more details about how fire-safe cigarettes work.