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Kiddie lighters still on the shelves

Banned cigarette lighters are still easily available in most shops, and Alliance MP Grant Gillon is warning that a tragedy is likely to result unless the Government takes action to get them off the shelves.

New rules under the Fair Trading Act took effect on 15 May which make it illegal to sell all but child resistant lighters.

The rules were introduced after Grant Gillon, who is a former fire fighter, introduced a Bill into parliament which would have banned the kiddie lighters. A lighter is child-resistant if 85% of children aged three years six months to four years three months cannot ignite it within a ten minute period.

In an informal survey of shops in Auckland and Wellington last week, Grant Gillon said five out of six shops selling lighters stocked items that didn't comply with the 'child resistant rules.'

"Big department stores know about the change in the law and seem to have removed all their old stock. But I'm concerned that many smaller retailers have never heard that it's illegal to sell lighters that aren't child resistant," Grant Gillon said.

He wants the Commerce Commission and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to step up their public education campaigns.

"The Commerce Commission could accomplish most of what needs to be done by simply visiting shops, checking to see what lighters are stocked and advising shopkeepers on the law."

127 people were killed and 10 died in fires caused by cigarette lighters in the four years to November 1997. Of these, 273 fires were confirmed as being caused by children playing with cigarette lighters and many more are suspected as being the cause.

Provisional figures for November 1997 to April 1998 show three more child deaths attributable to fire lighters.

"I am very worried that more deaths could occur as a result of children having access to these lighters. There is no way to describe the anger and sadness that would result if a child died from a fire involving a lighter which should not have been on the shelves," Grant Gillon said.

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