CPSC Votes to Begin Development of Mandatory Standard for Cigarette Lighters; Reducing Fire Deaths High Priority

December 3, 2004

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted unanimously (2-0) this week to start development of a mandatory safety standard for cigarette lighters. The mandatory standard could be based on the current voluntary “Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Lighters” (ASTM F-400) to prevent mechanical malfunction of lighters.

“Reducing fire deaths is one of our top priorities,” said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. “A mandatory standard for cigarette lighters – along with standards for the flammability of mattresses and upholstered furniture – would help reduce fires, deaths, and injuries.”

There are approximately one billion cigarette lighters sold in the U.S. annually. About 400 million of those are imported from China.

From 1997 through 2002, CPSC estimated that 3,015 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. For the same time period, CPSC received 256 incident reports related to cigarette lighter malfunctions and failures; 65 percent of these cigarette lighter failures resulted in fires, leading to 3 deaths and 6 serious injuries.

The voluntary standard for lighters addresses the risk of fire, death, and injury associated with mechanical malfunction of lighters. A mandatory standard would apply to imported as well as domestically-manufactured products.

“Fires are a leading cause of consumer product related deaths,” said Stratton. “By developing fire safety standards for mattresses, upholstered furniture, and cigarette lighters, CPSC can help save many lives while maintaining reasonable cost to consumers and manufacturers.”

CPSC Commissioner Thomas Moore said he voted to grant the petition because it would allow additional fact-finding about deaths and injuries and about industry compliance, which would help determine whether federal regulation is warranted in this area.

CPSC already has a mandatory standard for child-resistant cigarette lighters which addresses the hazard of children under 5 years of age starting fires with lighters. That standard for child-resistance applies to imported as well as domestically-manufactured disposable and novelty lighters.

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 age 5 accounted for 170 of the deaths in 1994 and 40 of the deaths in 1998. In 1994, there were 10,400 residential fires associated with children playing with lighters. By 1998, that number declined to 5,500 fires.

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