Do Smoking Bans Lead to More Fires?

Death by fire has declined significantly over the past 100 years, but there’s one surprising policy that may actually increase the prevalence of fires: smoking restrictions and bans. A new paper by Emory economist Sara Markowitz finds that “laws regulating indoor smoking are associated with increases in some types of fires. Specifically, workplace restrictions and bans are associated with increases in fires in all locations and in residential units. Restaurant and bar bans are associated with increases in fires in restaurants and all eating/drinking establishments.” Markowitz explains the counterintuitive results: “Even when bans are effective in reducing smoking, if the reduction is mostly among the safe smokers and the remaining smokers act more carelessly, then we could easily see an increase in fires.” For example, “In the case of restaurants and bars, it is easy to imagine a person going outside to smoke and then improperly disposing of the cigarette in flammable material such as mulch or shrubbery.” [%comments]


Marie

That exact situation happened where I work. All smoking was banned on company property. Smokers would go off property to another building. That building owner complained and so a co-worker ( who will forever remain anonymous) started smoking in a corner of our building with low visibility, threw a cigarette in the bushes and created a fairly large conflagration.

164

A small price to pay to be free of second hand smoke.

Cash McDollar

Nicotine tests for everyone entering establishments. Don't even let the smokers on the property.

Cash McDollar

The single greatest factor in the decline of house fires in the past 100 years ws the Electrification of America. Candle chandaliers, candles balanced on Christmas tree boughs, candles by the bedstand, open fires, torches, coal filled bed warmers all got replaced by safer electrical no-flame devices. And even our lungs benefited from less fires--not smoking related.

Fireman today rarely respond to fires... they probably bar-b-que more. Mostly they polish the firetruck and cook ribeyes. Nearly 80% of calls are medical related including auto accidents, heart attacks, and fallen- down -and- I -can't-get-up calls. That is why fire departments are trying to realign themselves as relevant as a terrorism response, Chemical-biological-nuclear units.

Smokers are the persistent ' fly in the chardonnay.'

--The Real Cash McDollar

Justin

That'd be socialism to the extreme, Mr. McDollar.

econobiker

This probably causes a rise in grass fires along highways as car manufacturers remove in car ashtrays for the ones which are afterthoughts that fit into cup holders so more smokers throw cigarette butts out the window..

gene

You somehow neglect to mention another important finding:

"Results indicate that reductions in smoking and increases in cigarette prices are associated with fewer fires."

Not much bias here, oh no.

Nikki

It's 21st century. Why on earth has nobody figured out a technology to eliminate second-hand smoke while letting smokers ruin their lungs in peace? It is pathetic that resources get wasted on moronic projects like flights to Mars when simple and relevant issues like this remain unresolved.

Steve in Miami

Here is the whole quote from the research paper itself:

"Results indicate that reductions in smoking and increases in cigarette prices are associated with fewer fires. However, laws regulating indoor smoking are associated with increases in some types of fires. Specifically, workplace restrictions and bans are associated with increases in fires in all locations and in residential units. "

Conclusion: Smoking restrictions indicate a reduction in fires in total aggregate but workplace and bar/restaurant restrictions specifically causes an increases in a fires.

A little sloppy writing but this is the information provided in the blog entry.

Martin

@Justin that's not socialism, that's fascism. Know your ~isms, it could save you face one day.

Diego.CMS

Smokers will always look for a way to get cigarettes. Smoking is an addiction and addicts are price-inelastic customers (meaning that this customers are not affected by the change in price). Due to price-inelastic customers, cigarettes are considered inelastic products. Now, this price-inelastic customers will look for a place to consume their products and this are places where flamable surroundings (forests, etc.). In the case of a ban, smokers are still going to look for alternatives or something that can substitute the smoking. The opportunity cost of smoking, rather than not smoking for smokers is very high, so they are going to look foward to find a way to smoke. This causing more fires.

Malice in Wonderland

Sorry Diego, but you are wrong. There are very good reasons why smokers who don't have much disposable cash turn to illegal cigarettes when government taxes rise (like they do in droves here in Ontario). They want to keep smoking, but can't keep up with the prices. Hence only relatively well-off smokers could be considered price-inelastic, and even then, only those who would rather take the slow train to oblivion with government-approved smokes rather than take their chances with the garbage that is being produced by the smugglers.