May 05, 2008
Children are attracted to novelty lighters because they look like toys. Many of these lighters look like animals, miniature cars, mobile phones, cameras, fishing lures, stacks of coins, markers, and doll accessories. One lighter is nearly identical to the popular rubber ducky bathtub toyit even quacks! There are also toy-like and novelty lighters that look like tools such as tape measures, drills, hammers, and paintbrushes. Ironically, there are even lighters that mimic a Dalmatian donning a fire helmet, a red fire truck, or fire extinguishers.
All local fire officials, the Alaska Fire Chief's Association, along with the Alaska State Fire Marshal, as well as fire professionals from across the nation want to make citizens aware of the problems with novelty lighters and how dangerous they are to our children and to adults. Even local merchants are taking a stand against novelty lighters.
Mistaking lighters for toys has been proven to be deadly: On September 25, 2007 15-month old and 2-year old of Russellville, Arkansas, died after setting fire to their apartment with a motorcycle-shaped lighter. Another child was in grocery store in Livermore, Maine last June with his mother buying sandwiches. Thinking it might be a flashlight, the 6-year-old picked up a miniature baseball bat and flicked the switch. A flame shot out, singeing his eyebrow and burning part of his face.
Children are not the only ones fooled by novelty lighters. Beaverton, Michigan resident purchased a novelty lighter for her 4-year-old child after mistaking it for a toy. In 2006, a South Carolina woman shot herself in the hand while attempting to light a cigarette with what she thought was a pistol-shaped novelty lighter.
A fire marshal in Wisconsin was making a purchase at a local home improvement store when his 12-year-old daughter picked up what she believed was a tape measure. When she clicked the button on the tape measure, a flame came out. Fortunately, the child was not hurt and the owner of the store voluntarily stopped selling the lighters.
In North Carolina, a six year-old boy sustained second-degree burns after playing with a lighter that looked like a toy cell phone. In Maryland, playground equipment was set on fire by three girls using a gun-shaped lighter. In Oregon, one child died and another was permanently brain damaged after a six year-old, playing with a lighter that looked like a toy dolphin, started a fire. In another incident, a mother was severely burned after her child, playing with a lighter that resembled a Christmas tree, ignited the woman's bed.
Some local and State governments are taking action by banning the sale of toy-like and novelty lighters, and limiting their distribution. Maine was the first State to pass a ban on toy-like and novelty lighters, passing the legislation on March 14, 2008. Tennessee also passed a ban, in April 2008. Other States considering bans are Alabama, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Vermont. In addition to State bans and restrictions on the sale of toy-like and novelty lighters, numerous local jurisdictions have passed ordinances. These include more than 19 jurisdictions in Arkansas, another 6 in California, and Yakima County in Washington State.
On May 11, 2006, the European Consumer Protection Commission adopted a decision requiring Member States to ensure that, from March 11, 2007 cigarette lighters are child resistant when placed on the EU market. The decision also prohibits placing lighters on the market that resemble objects that are particularly attractive to children, so-called novelty lighters. According to the European Standard, a lighter shall not be novelty-like, because the inherent risk is significantly higher. The novelty lighters are attractive for children and, taking into account children's normal behavior, risk of burning injury is present during their use. "It's now time for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to follow suit," said the National Association of Fire Marshals in a recently passed resolution. As Oregon State Fire Marshal Nancy Orr wrote to the CPSC, "There are no good reasons that lighters should be manufactured to resemble toys."
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