MFRS joins local partners in campaign to “de-normalise” smoking in the home

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS) is hoping to increase the number of smoke-free homes across Merseyside and “de-normalise” smoking at home as part of a new campaign being piloted across Speke and Garston.

MFRS attend around 100 accidental house fires each year caused by smoking materials. This includes carelessly discarded cigarettes and smoking materials. In 2018/19, MFRS attended 95 such incidents, with one of them sadly resulting in the death of one person.

The ‘Smoke Free Homes’ project hopes to combat this and ultimately change people’s behaviours and attitudes to smoking at home.

Created in partnership with South Liverpool Homes, SmokeFree Liverpool and Liverpool City Council, the project is initially being piloted in Speke and Garston – the ward with the highest prevalence of smokers (26.5%) – but will hopefully be rolled out across the whole of Merseyside in the future.

Mark Thomas, Group Manager for Prevention at MFRS, said: “Smoking remains Merseyside’s biggest killer and the single biggest cause of preventable illness, with 900 people dying in Liverpool each year from smoking-related illnesses.

“Smoking-related illnesses cause a massive burden on the NHS, social care and other services. Our firefighters attend around 100 accidental house fires each year that are caused by smoking materials. Each of these fires is preventable and the work of the Smoke Free Homes project has a vital part to play in this.”

The project also aims to raise awareness the dangers of second-hand smoke in the home and the impact this can have on not just their own health, but on their children’s health too, with children more susceptible to the health impacts of second-hand smoke.

Smoke Free Homes was officially launched on Tuesday at Speke & Garston Community Fire Station with the unveiling of the project’s logo – designed by local school pupil Nadia Bielecka – proudly displayed on the side of a fire engine.

Nadia - formerly a pupil at St Christopher’s and now Bellerive FCJ Catholic College – was guest of honour at the unveiling, with her design chosen following a competition between four local primary schools.

GM Thomas added: “It’s fantastic to see Nadia’s design printed on the side of our fire engine – she should be extremely proud of herself. Her design will be seen by hundreds of people as the fire engine transports our crews across the area each day when they attend fires, road traffic collisions and other incidents.

“We want to raise awareness of the impact that smoking in the home has upon children’s health and ultimately de-normalise smoking in the home environment. This will help us to reduce the risk of domestic fires caused by smoking materials and of course encourage more people to stop smoking.

“Nadia’s design of ‘children copy what they see’ will prompt conversations between children and their parents and grandparents, who may themselves smoke, and hopefully will lead to an increase in the number of smoke-free homes across Merseyside.”

Claire Ryan, Director of Investment & Assurance at South Liverpool Homes, said: “We know that smoking is more common among people living in social housing than anywhere else, so we have a very important role to play in supporting our tenants to help them quit smoking and live a healthier lifestyle.

“Speke and Garston have a higher concentration of smokers compared to the rest of the city so by working with our partners Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, Liverpool City Council, Smokefree Liverpool and Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, we can focus on addressing this issue which will help deliver tangible benefits to our community.

“The campaign is about awareness and supporting people to have the information and services available to help them quit smoking, reduce the effects of second-hand smoke to family members as well as minimising the risk of fires in their homes. We are delighted to see Nadia’s design on the fire engine which will be highly visible in the South Liverpool community, and we’re looking forward to seeing this logo in tenants’ windows when we produce stickers in the new year for those who wish sign up to the campaign.”