Novelty lighters ignite Senate debate
*** Update: The House Judiciary Committee voted down the novelty lighter restrictions this afternoon, meaning the issue has probably flamed out for the year. ***
Novelty lighters could not be sold in Maryland under a plan advanced today by the state Senate.
Lawmakers argue that the toylike devices attract children and therefore pose a fire hazard. The Senate plan, which could gain final passage this week, also prohibits the sale of lighters with cartoon pictures on them.
A similar proposal in the House of Delegates was rejected late this afternoon by the House Judiciary Committee.
Senators on both sides of the issue hoisted lighters on the floor this morning to illustrate their point.
Sen. Barry Glassman, a Republican who sponsored the bill, displayed a tiny totem pole lighter and a mini-Coach purse that ignites when the zipper is pulled and.
"This is a very serious issue," Glassman said as the debate began veering toward puns and snickers. He said toddlers grab the lighters thinking they are toys and can hurt themselves.
Sen. Allan Kittleman, a Republican who opposes restricting lighter sales, fired up lighters of his own: a green one that would remain legal and a similarly-sized one with a picture of a dragon that would become illegal.
Kittleman said he doesn't believe the legislation achieves its stated purpose of protecting children -- especially because Marylanders would still be able to purchase toylike lighters in other states or over the Internet.
Under the Senate plan, violators would be subject to a civil penalty.
The House sponsor of the bill, Del. James Malone, has tried to pass lighter restrictions for several years, to no avail. This morning, he said he felt optimistic.
The Baltimore County Democrat said he brought examples of toy lighters to a House committee last year -- and a delegate burned himself while playing with one.
"These really are dangerous," he said. Though the plan was rejected by the House Judiciary Committee, it could be revived if the Senate sends its version to the lower chamber for consideration.
Glassman cited other cases of injury and destruction. He said a 5-year-old burned playground equipment in Maryland (he wasn't sure where) while playing with a gun-replica lighter. Elsewhere in the country, kids have singed their hair with cell-phone-style lighters and their fingers with car and motorcycle lighers that ignite when their wheels are rolled.
More and more states are moving to ban toy lighters, Glassman said, and 14 have already done so.