A child's toy? no way! The photo depicts a novelty lighter that is made to look like a toy. Novelty lighters are items made for adult collectors that are becoming common and can be deadly in the hands of children.
From coast to coast cities small and large have begun banning the sale and distribution of novelty lighters as firefighters, fire department prevention officers and citizens step before the microphones at city council meetings to plead with officials to halt the sale of the lighters.
The theme for the 2008 Arson Awareness Week, “Toylike Lighters—Playing with Fire,” focuses public attention on the dangers of toylike or novelty lighters in the hands of children. Toylike or novelty lighters have been responsible for injuries, deaths, and accidents across the Nation.
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 bath toy—it even quacks! There are also toylike and novelty lighters that look like tools such as tape measures, drills, hammers, and paint brushes. Ironically, there are even lighters that mimic a Dalmatian donning a fire helmet, a red fire truck, or fire extinguishers.
Children Killed and Injured
Mistaking lighters for toys has proved to be deadly: On September 25, 2007, 15-month-old Peyton Edwards and 2-year-old Breydon Edwards of Russellville, Arkansas, died after setting fire to their apartment with a motorcycle-shaped lighter.
Shane St. Pierre 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. His father, Norm St. Pierre, a fire chief in nearby West Paris, became an advocate for a ban on toylike and novelty lighters. Maine passed a ban on toylike lighters on March 14, 2008.
Children are not the only ones fooled by novelty lighters. Beaverton, Michigan, resident Laura Fowler 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 store owner voluntarily stopped selling the lighters.
In North Carolina, a 6-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 5-year-old girls using a gun-shaped lighter. In Oregon, one child died and another was permanently brain damaged after a 6-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 mother’s bed.
Some local and State governments are taking action by banning the sale of toylike and novelty lighters, and limiting their distribution. Maine was the first State to pass a ban on toylike 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 toylike 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.
Links of Interest
Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal
Arkansas No Novelty Lighter Coalition
The Idea Bank