Local Politics

Bill seeks to snuff out novelty lighters

Posted March 24, 2009 5:41 p.m. EDT
Updated March 24, 2009 6:33 p.m. EDT

— Some North Carolina lawmakers want to ban the sale and distribution of lighters that look like toys.

The state Child Fatality Task Force, which investigates child deaths, recommended a novelty-lighter ban to protect children. Senate Bill 652, which would make selling such lighters punishable by a $500 fine, is pending in the Commerce Committee.

Novelty lighters come in a variety of shapes, from a little pig to a wolf with flashing blue eyes to an elephant to a NASCAR helmet. Some even look like cigarettes.

Yvette McCray, a Fayetteville resident, said she supports the proposed ban.

"Kids do think they're toys, and you don't want them playing with them and catching the house on fire and catching themselves on fire," McCray said. "A 99-cent lighter does the same trick, and you can put it in your cigarette case where the kids can't see it. You can't even put (novelty lighters) in your cigarette case because they don't fit in there."

Novelty lighters are sold primarily in tobacco shops, where they're stored behind glass.

Tobacco Mart owner Ali Seif said he sees no reason for the ban because novelty lighters are fairly child-resistant – and they aren't big sellers anyway.

"You have to push it very hard to light it up," Seif said. "It's not popular because it's expensive. It costs about $5."

Arkansas, Maine and Oregon have already banned novelty lighters, but some smokers said they hope the proposed North Carolina legislation flames out.

"I think (protecting children) starts with the parents, and really, a lighter is a lighter," Fayetteville resident Prentice Harley said.