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Sales of toy-like lighters may end
County considers call for removal by deputy chief
3 Lighter pic 1
Some novelty lighters look similar to children’s toys, which has prompted the city council and commissioners to consider a ban. - photo by Photo/Michele Hester

A Dawson County emergency services official is leading the charge in asking the county to ban the sale of toy-like novelty lighters.


Last week, Dawson County Emergency Services Deputy Chief Tim Satterfield asked commissioners to consider a ban on selling the lighters in Dawson County.


“We haven’t had an incident yet where a child in the county has been burned, but the ways these lighters look, it makes me wonder who they are marketed for,” Satterfield said, holding up a lighter shaped like a toy robot.


“There are no good reasons that lighters should be manufactured to resemble toys.


“I’m not asking that people be banned from having them, but I don’t want to see stores selling them,” he said.


The Dawsonville City Council earlier this month approved the drafting of an ordinance to ban the sale of toy lighters within the city limits.


Attorneys with Dawson County and the city of Dawsonville are working together to draft the same ordinance, said Dawsonville Planning Director Steve Holder.


If passed, Dawson County and the city of Dawsonville would become the first municipalities in the state to place a ban on the sale of novelty lighters, Satterfield said.


According to the U.S. Fire Administration, Maine was the first state to enact a ban on toy-like and novelty lighters, passing the bill on March 14. Tennessee passed a ban in April.


Satterfield said he has already talked to officials at several local businesses that attest children are drawn to the lighters’ toy-like features. The lighters are generally found on counters at gas stations and convenience stores.


“I talked to one store that said the lighters are so popular they are out of them right now, but they said they’ll have ones shaped like pumpkins for the holidays,” he said.


Satterfield said accidents caused by lighters are the second leading cause of death in children 14 and younger.


“They are obviously geared toward a juvenile or toddler’s mentality,” said Dawson County District 2 Commissioner Terri Tragesser.


Satterfield said novelty lighters, often manufactured out of the country, are not government regulated and can pose serious health risks.


“They’re all decorated with lead-based paint,” he said. “The regulated lighter companies, like BIC, even want them off the market.”


Regulated lighter companies are required by law to have safety features; the novelty lighters Satterfield wants banned have nothing to keep children from igniting them.


“These lighters pose a serious risk and represent a major threat to public safety. Placed in the hands of children, it is a recipe for disaster,” he said.


Tragesser said the county must determine if the lighters pose a public safety hazard and the county’s ability and cost to enforce the ban.


“The sheriff’s office should definitely have a say in this,” she said.

Enforcement would fall under the fire marshal’s office and monitoring would take place during annual business inspections, according to Satterfield.


Safety for Dawson County children is a primary concern for the sheriff’s office, said Lt. Tony Wooten, who oversees the sheriff’s office-sponsored SafeKids of Dawson County.


“Burns are one of the unintentional injuries SafeKids targets,” Wooten said.


“Anything that looks like a child’s toy that also has the potential to start a fire or harm a child or cause a child’s death is a great concern of SafeKids.


“We have several people with the fire department in SafeKids. We hope the fire department is successful in their efforts.”


The board of commissioners is expected to vote on the drafted ordinance to ban the lighters Thursday at its regular meeting. Two public hearings are required before the board would be able to vote to approve the ordinance.


E-mail Michele Hester at