Photo: This destruction was caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette. If you were in this room, you likely would not have made it out alive.

By Jen Longaecker
Public Information Officer

I’ll admit it: I was the stinky kid in middle school.

I grew up in a house with parents who smoked inside. I didn’t realize until I was an adult just how much cigarette smoke stinks.

I also didn’t realize until I was an adult how dangerous it is to smoke in your house. I remember going to visit my parents and noticing burn holes on the couch where my mom used to sit. It terrified me — so much so that I went through the house and tested the smoke alarms to make sure they worked. I always feared I’d get a phone call in the middle of the night saying my parents’ house had started on fire thanks to one of those carelessly discarded cigarettes.

Thankfully, that never happened — to my family. But it does happen to an average of 10 families each year in Minnesota.

Over the past five years (2017-2021), 40 people have died in smoking-related fires. Here are some other facts about them:

  • Their average age is 61.
  • Fifty-six percent of them are male.
  • The majority (63 percent) lived in greater Minnesota; the others lived in the seven-county metro area.

Smoking-related fires are 100% preventable and that’s why the State Fire Marshal Division is working hard to raise awareness about the dangers of careless smoking — the leading cause of fatal fires in our state. 

We’re asking residential property owners and managers to implement smoke-free policies for their properties. Smoke-free policies don’t just protect residents and staff from smoking-related fires, they also protect them from exposure to secondhand smoke, which causes approximately 41,000 deaths each year in the U.S. 

We’re asking those who smoke to do so outside and properly extinguish their cigarettes in a sturdy container filled with sand or water. We’re reminding them to have working smoke alarms in their homes. We’re showing them how careless smoking is a tragedy waiting to happen.

Smoking-related fires aren’t the only way cigarettes can harm people. For those interested in quitting smoking, the Minnesota Department of Health offers free support through Quit Partner (, 1-800-QUIT-NOW). 

This video featuring footage from a live burn shows how quickly and easily a smoking-related fire can start, spread and turn deadly. Please share this video with as many people as possible in your community. While smoking isn’t as common as it was when I was young, people are still dying from smoking, secondhand smoke, and smoking-related fires. Those deaths are preventable.  

If you’re a residential property owner or manager, contact Live Smoke Free for free help to adopt a smoke-free policy. If you’re someone who smokes, take it outside. Better yet, enroll with Quit Partner and start your quit journey. These actions could help save lives in more ways than one.

Check out this fact sheet for more smoking safety tips from the Minnesota State Fire Marshal.