Child-Resistant Lighters Bring Down Fire Deaths CPSC report shows 43% decline in deaths from lighter fires

November 02, 2000
Release Number: 01026

 A federal safety standard requiring cigarette lighters to be child-resistant has led to dramatic decreases in fires, deaths and injuries, according to a report issued today by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The new report shows that fire deaths associated with children playing with lighters dropped 43 percent since the CPSC required cigarette lighters to be child-resistant starting in 1994. Deaths related to children playing with lighters fell 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.

Overall, fires related to lighters dropped by 45 percent between 1994 and 1998. In 1994, there were 11,100 residential fires associated with children playing with lighters. By 1998, that number declined to 6,100 fires. By comparison, residential structure fires due to other causes decreased by 15 percent in that period.

Injuries related to lighter fires also declined. Injuries dropped 49 percent, from 1,600 in 1994 to 810 in 1998.

The study estimates that 4,800 fires, 130 deaths, 950 injuries and $76.4 million in property damage were prevented because of the cigarette lighter safety standard in 1998 alone.

The cigarette lighter safety standard requires disposable and novelty lighters to have a child-resistant mechanism that makes lighters difficult for children younger than age 5 to operate. At the time the standard was developed, it was estimated that children younger than age 5 ignited 73 percent of all residential structure fires started by children playing with cigarette lighters.

"Children try to copy their parents, so a cigarette lighter becomes a tempting plaything," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "Cigarette lighters today are safer because they are less likely to cause a fire if they fall into the wrong hands."

Despite the good news, fires caused by children playing with lighters remain a concern. It is expected that the new CPSC standard requiring child-resistant mechanisms on household multi-purpose lighters, which will become effective in December 2000, will help reduce fires and fire deaths even further.