Contact: Steve Holmes
(334) 240-4434


February    Smoking and Medical Oxygen


Smoking is the leading factor in home fires involving medical oxygen.


Many people using medical oxygen have other health issues that may prevent them from escaping the fire, responding to a smoke alarm, etc. For this reason, there is no substitute for prevention.


Since the safest place to smoke is outdoors, most of these fires happen when it is too cold to go outside to smoke.


Oxygen makes things burn much faster. Think of what happens when you blow into a fire; it makes the flame bigger. Normally, the air we breathe is about 20% oxygen. The air delivered to patients using medical oxygen therapy is nearly 100%, making it extremely flammable.


Smokers who use home oxygen may understand the need to turn the tank off before lighting up, but may not realize that the danger persists, even when the oxygen isn’t flowing. Oxygen can build up not only in the home, but also on the hair, clothes, and body of the patient and ignite when a heat source—like a cigarette—comes close to the face, causing severe burns.


Facial hair raises the risk of home oxygen therapy-related burns.


There is no safe way to smoke when using home oxygen. Should an individual need to smoke, it is important to first turn off the tank, and wait 10 full minutes before going outside to smoke.


Put a "NO SMOKING" sign in every room where oxygen is used.


More than 1 million people in the United States use home oxygen therapy, and it is on the rise around the world, especially in countries where smoking is increasing, the researchers say.