WASHINGTON — Prodded by Congress and consumer groups, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Thursday that it is starting an effort to make cigarette lighters child-resistant.
Children playing with lighters were blamed for 7,800 fires leading to 120 deaths, 860 injuries and $60.5 million in property damage in 1985, agency officials said.
The commission "concluded that cigarette lighters available today are not child-resistant. To provide such child resistance, changes in lighter design may be required."
The decision to act follows a two-year study of lighter safety that the commission conducted after receiving a petition from Diane Denton, a nurse at Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, Ky.
Agency Draws Criticism
Congress and consumer groups have been critical of the agency for its slow start on the issue.
"The evidence is clear: Cigarette lighters are killing children, and swift regulatory action is needed," the Consumer Federation of America said in a recent report.
Rep. James J. Florio (D-N. J.), chairman of a House consumer affairs panel, criticized agency lethargy in hearings last summer. He served notice that, if the commission did not act on its own, Congress would order it to do so.
Lighter makers have stressed their efforts to maintain quality products and noted that they include warning labels on packages that lighters should be kept away from children.
The commission is expected to evaluate various possible lighter design changes in an effort to find ways to make lighters child-resistant. It did not say what changes may be likely, but making it harder to operate lighters may be one possibility because the study found that younger children usually need both hands to use the lighters.
Will Consider All Lighters
Although the popular disposable butane lighters have been the focus of consumer groups looking at this issue, the commission said its review will consider all lighters.
The commission said it will issue an advance notice of proposed rule making, the first step in the generally long process of establishing mandatory safety standards.