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World wide about 100 000 children die each year in fires, most of which occur in the home.1 Smoke detectors, by giving early warning, can substantially reduce the risk of death in the event of a residential fire.2 Many countries and states have therefore enacted legislation in an attempt to increase the prevalence of smoke detector use. The form of legislation introduced is likely to reflect a range of practical, economic, and ideological constraints. Legislation might apply to all housing or only new …