Responding to calls from fire prevention and child safety groups across the country, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) this week introduced the bipartisan “Protect Children from Dangerous Lighters Act” to ban cigarette lighters constructed to look like toys or regular household items. Commonly referred to as “novelty lighters,” the toy-like devices, which naturally appeal to small children, have been the cause of deadly fires and several injuries and deaths across the country.

Senator Collins said, “Novelty lighters can be deadly to young children and should be banned. While Maine is among states that have already approved such a ban, the ban should be nationwide. This is commonsense legislation that could help prevent additional injury and death of children resulting from lighters that look like toys or other items.”

“Because they are so well disguised as toys, novelty lighters encourage children to literally play with fire,” said Wyden. “A nationwide ban, which is supported by fire fighters and consumer groups alike, is the best way to keep these dangerous products out of the hands of youngsters.”

Senators Collins and Wyden, along with Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) also sent a letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission requesting that the Commission begin a rulemaking process that would institute a federal ban on novelty lighters.

The lighters have caused tragic accidents across the country. In Oregon, one boy died and another sustained permanent brain damage after the two played with a novelty lighter shaped like a dolphin. A lighter shaped like a cell phone caused second degree burns to a young boy in North Carolina. In Arkansas, a two year old and 15-month old died in a fire they accidentally started by playing with a lighter shaped like a toy motorcycle.

The ban would require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to treat novelty lighters as a banned hazardous substance which would prohibit the manufacture, importation, or sale of the lighters anywhere in the country. Currently the lighters are easily purchased in convenience stores in many states, though Maine and Oregon have passed novelty lighter ban legislation and similar bans are being introduced in other states. A ban is also in place in the European Union.

A federal ban is supported by fire-fighting and child safety groups including the National Association of State Fire Marshals, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, and Safe Kids USA. In addition, the ban is supported by the cigarette lighter industry, represented by the Lighter Association. Novelty lighters are largely imported from China.