Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

Our Mission: Safer Stronger Communities - Safe Effective Firefighters.


Legislation - children, smoking and the law

The Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991 makes it illegal to sell any tobacco product to anyone below the age of 16. The Act increased the maximum fines to £2,500 for retailers found guilty of selling cigarettes to children and tightened up the previous legislation in a number of other ways. However, in 1994 children aged 11-16 spent approximately £135 million on cigarettes. In 1995-97 there was an average of 140 prosecutions a year for under-age sales with average fines of £200 to £800.

Children and matches

Research has shown that, in Europe, pre-school children playing with matches and cigarette lighters cause 2,700 fires, 500 serious injuries and 50 deaths every year.

In the UK, four research organisations under the direction of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have teamed up to look at what can be done.

Guided by a steering group of safety professionals and industry representatives, the first focus of the work was to see whether it was possible to follow the way forward on cigarette lighters, where work is already under way to develop a new safety standard to make lighters child resistant. The simple conclusion was that the cost of production, the ingenuity of children and environmental concerns combine to create impossible barriers to the development of a childproof matchbox.

This led to a second phase of work: what could be done to improve the effectiveness of the fire safety warning on matchboxes? Both quantitative and qualitative research led to the conclusion that a new warning and pictogram were the most popular response, particularly among lower socio-economic groups where smoking and the incidence of fires are significantly higher.

The final phase was to turn the research into a practical solution. Launched during Child Safety Week 2000, the new logo has the full support of match manufacturers.

The aim is to put an end to fires started by pre-school children playing with matches - for good.

Advice to the Community

Fires started by smoking materials account for more than one-third of all fire deaths and injure more than 500 children under 16 each year.

Never leave a lit cigarette or pipe unattended while you answer the door or telephone.

Never smoke in bed.

Keep your matches and lighters in a safe place, well out of reach of children.

Get a smoke alarm. In the event of a fire, it will give you and your family some precious time to escape safely.

Smoking in the workplace

Most places of work now have, or are creating, a no-smoking policy. When a large company or factory introduces a no-smoking policy, this offers fire brigades an ideal opportunity to give fire safety education to the whole workforce.

Carers in the community

People who are disabled, ill or elderly are at risk in terms of their ability to escape from fire in the home.

Their carers are often their only link with the outside world. Thus carers are a vital, direct link with these 'at risk' people. They are concerned with the welfare of those in their care and are usually happy to help in safety initiatives. Many carers lack a sound knowledge of fire safety issues. Fire brigades can have a direct influence on people's homes by providing carers with fire safety literature, checklists and training courses.

For a checklist of the fire safety risks that carers should look out for in people's homes, see the Toolbox module on Older people.

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