Time to snuff out cigarettes

NANAIMO – Re: Smoking cited as cause of townhouse fire, Feb. 21.

To the Editor,

Re: Smoking cited as cause of townhouse fire, Feb. 21.

Talk about a coincidence, Murphy’s Law or whatever you want to call it.

At noon on Feb, 21, I was scheduled to do an interview – about tobacco – with Nanaimo’s CHLY Radio.

After arriving from Tsawwassen, I came across an issue of the Nanaimo News Bulletin and the referenced front page story. Apparently the third such fire in Nanaimo since the new year. That’s an average of one residential cigarette-ignited fire every 17 days just in Nanaimo.

Then, of course, there was a cigarette-ignited house fire in Victoria just two days earlier, which left three people dead, and a cigarette-ignited apartment fire in Burnaby (one day before the Nanaimo fire), which left many pets dead and the residents of 35 suites homeless.

Such senseless tragedies, all because a few people needed a hit of nicotine, and chose the dirtiest and most dangerous and deadly (clearly, in more ways than one) drug delivery device to get it.

I can’t remember the last time a nicotine patch, nicotine gum or any of the dozens of other nicotine replacement therapies that are now on the market ever set fire to any couch, bed or building.

All of that said – and with the utmost respect for Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer Ennis Mond – smoke detectors (less than 10 years old or not … and with or without new/working batteries) do not prevent fires.

They do a great job of alerting people when a fire occurs, but again, do not prevent fires.

In order to truly prevent cigarette-ignited fires – which continue to be, as the above examples suggest, the leading cause of residential fire fatalities – we must eliminate the source.

In this case, that means not smoking in bed (or on the couch) and always ensuring that all smoking materials are kept out of the reach of children (as well as those who act like children) and that such materials are always thoroughly extinguished.

Or, even better, prohibit smoking entirely in all multi-unit dwellings, which include apartments, condos, townhomes, etc., and eradicate the tobacco industry from the face of the planet.

It may not happen in my lifetime, but it will happen and, with tobacco currently killing six million people annually/globally (five to 10 per cent of whom are non-smokers), please help us achieve our objectives much sooner rather than later.

Errol E. Povah

president, Airspace

Action on Smoking

and Health