Lighter that resembles a toy frog (AP)
By Jon Campbell, Gannett Albany Bureau
ALBANY - The sale of novelty lighters shaped like toys, guns and cartoon characters could soon be banned under a bill poised to pass the state Legislature next week.
The state Senate this week passed the measure, which would prohibit retailers from selling any lighters that emit sound effects, flashing lights or are shaped like another object, such as a musical instrument or an animal. The state Assembly is soon to follow soon, according to the office Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, the Manhattan Democrat sponsoring it.
Such lighters are often found for sale in convenience stores and gas stations. Critics say they cater to children and have the potential to cause major accidents.
"Despite their bright colors and stylish designs, novelty lighters are extremely dangerous items that too often land in kids' hands and, ultimately, lead to tragic, often fatal results," James Burns, president of the state Fireman's Association, said in a statement.
If passed and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York would become at least the 15th state to pass similar bans. The bill would exempt collectable lighters manufactured before 1980 and would require the state to set up a telephone hotline to report any violations of the law.
Sam Chebaro, owner of the Florida-based Sunshine Lighter Company, said novelty lighter bans have had a negative impact on his business. The company specializes in the wholesale of novelty lighters, with its website boasting more than 600 varieties.
Chebaro said parents should be primarily responsible for keeping lighters away from kids, and a ban won't make parents more responsible.
"If you keep a lighter in front of your child, it's like keeping a gun or a knife in front of your child," Chebaro said. "The parent should be responsible for keeping all of that away from the children."
The bill "will protect children and their families and ultimately save lives," said Sen. Jack Martins, R-Nassau County, who sponsored the bill in the Senate.
A spokesman for Cuomo said the governor is reviewing the legislation.