The article cites a retardant advocate as saying "Deaths caused by furniture fires dropped from 1,400 in 1980 to 600 in 2004; a 57 percent reduction."
We know that almost all of these couch fires are caused by people falling asleep while smoking cigarettes.
According to the CDC, in the same period, cigarette consumption in the US adult population has fallen from 33.2% in 1980 to 20.9% in 2004. (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0762370.html)
So a certain portion of the decline is due to the reduction in cigarette use.
Also, 43 out of 50 states now mandate "fire safe" cigarettes which contain substances such as ethylene vinyl acetate which increase the chance an unsmoked but lit cigarette will stop burning. The presence of these cigarettes has also certainly led to fewer couch fires.
It is unlikely that the entire 57 percent reduction in couch fires over 24 years is entirely due to the use of carcinogenic flame retardants.
Those who smoke cigarettes also smoke a lot less than they used to, so total cigarette consumption is maybe only half as much or less compared to what it once was.
At some point they figured out that smoking is somewhat less bad for you if you smoke outside
That's not true. If you live in the house of someone who was formerly a heavy smoker then you have a higher cancer risk yourself, because the radiation from the cigarrettes gets into the walls and carpet. Which means that smokers themselves also have a lower cancer risk if they smoke outside for the same reason. I'd imagine it also somewhat reduces their risk for heart attack, since second hand smoke increases your risk of heart attack, although I haven't seen any stats on that.
I've known several.
> This may be dismissed as anecdotal by the type of vehement anti-smoking zealot you seem to be
I guess your anecdotal evidence trumps my anecdotal evidence. Carry on.