State Legislature Moves to Ban Novelty Lighters

Some especially cute cigarette lighters. (Photo: Getty)

Some especially cute cigarette lighters. (Photo: Getty)

New Yorkers may no longer be able to buy lighters that look like the Statue of Liberty or that cute cow in the photograph to the left.

The New York State Assembly approved a ban on novelty lighters today, joining the State Senate, which did so last week, and leaving the bill just a gubernatorial signature away from becoming law.

In a statement rationalizing the need for the legislation, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said that the lighters’ resemblance to toys makes them a serious safety hazard to children.

“These lighters may appear harmless because they look like toys, but in reality they are flame-producing devices that children like to play with,” he said. “This a combination that spells disaster, and it must be eliminated.”

The President of the Firemen’s Association of New York State James Burns praised the Assembly for passing the bill, in an email sent to Politicker. Speaking on behalf of his organization, he emphasized the enormous risks posed by these lighters.

“Novelty lighters are extremely attractive to children with their toy-like features and stylish designs but despite their innocent appearance, they are extremely dangerous items that too often land in the wrong hands and, ultimately, lead to tragic, often fatal results,” he said.

Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee Chair Jeffrey Dinowitz, who strongly backs the measure, told Politicker he had no data available regarding the number of stores in New York that are currently selling novelty lighters, but sees the legislation as a sensible step to preventing children from mistaking igniters for toys and possibly lighting accidental  fires.

“Someone told me they had a lighter that looked like a rubber ducky,” the assemblyman said.

The bill, which Mr. Dinowitz expects to be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, proposes a maximum penalty of $10,000 for manufacturers and importers of novelty lighters, while wholesale retailers could be charged up to $1,000 for selling them. Stores could be fined up to $500.

The New York bill would further authorize law enforcement agencies to seize banned lighters, impose penalties on offenders and create a toll-free hotline number to report potential violations. There is no language to address novelty lighters that may currently be on the shelves of local stores.

 

Update (4:50 p.m.): An additional statement from the Firemen’s Association of New York State was added.