RICHMOND – Virginia is poised to become the fourth state to restrict the sale of toy-shaped novelty lighters.
A bill on Gov. Tim Kaine’s desk would impose a $100 fine on anyone who sells a novelty lighter to a minor.
House Bill 2578, which passed during the recent legislative session, also would require retailers to keep the lighters in a place where children cannot reach them.
If signed into law by Kaine, the measure would take effect July 1.
The bill, sponsored by Delegate Algie T. Howell, D-Norfolk, defines a novelty lighter as one “designed to resemble a cartoon character, toy, gun, watch, musical instrument, vehicle, animal, food or beverage” or one “that plays musical notes, has flashing lights, or has other entertaining features that are appealing to or intended for use by juveniles.”
According to the National Association of State Fire Marshals, children under 5 cause about 5,000 residential fires each year, resulting in more than 150 deaths.
Generally found on the shelves and counters of truck stop gift shops and convenience stores, the novelty lighters come in a variety of shapes that appeal to children – from well-known cartoon characters to brightly colored barnyard animals.
Maine and Tennessee have banned the sale of the toy-shaped lighters, and Oregon has passed a law restricting their sale.
After passing the House, Howell’s bill was reworked by the Senate to ban the sale of all lighters – not just novelty lighters – to any person under 12.
However, a conference committee restored the original intent prohibiting the sale of only novelty lighters to any person under 18. The committee’s recommendation was approved by the House and Senate on Feb. 28, the final day of the legislative session.
The bill would not prevent an adults from buying a novelty lighter and giving it to a minor.