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First step toward mandatory US standard for cigarette lighters

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The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has voted unanimously to move forward with the first of three steps in developing a new mandatory safety standard for cigarette lighters. The vote to approve an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking sets the Commission on a path to consider a way to prevent most mechanical malfunctions of lighters and reduce the fire hazard associated with some lighters. CPSC already has a mandatory standard for child-resistant cigarette lighters which addresses the hazard of children under 5 years starting fires with lighters. That standard for child-resistance applies to imported as well as domestically-manufactured disposable and novelty lighters. There are nearly one billion cigarette lighters sold in the US annually. Over 700 million lighters are imported each year, with about 400 million coming from China. From 1997 to 2002, the CPSC estimated that more than 3000 people went to hospital emergency rooms for injuries resulting from malfunctioning lighters. Most of these injuries involved thermal burns to the face, hands, and fingers. The voluntary standard for lighters addresses the risk of fire, death, and injury associated with mechanical malfunctions of lighters. However, it is unclear how many lighters sold in the US actually comply with the voluntary standard. Fire deaths associated with children playing with lighters dropped dramatically since the mandatory standard for child-resistance became effective in July 1994—from 230 in 1994 to 130 in 1998. Children under 5 years accounted for 170 of the deaths in 1994 and 40 of the deaths in 1998. In 1994 there were 11 100 residential fires associated with children playing with lighters. By 1998, that number declined to 6100 fires.