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Brussels, 14 March 2007

EU requires cigarette lighters to be child-resistant

Commission Decision enhances consumer safety by requiring that, as of this day, cigarette lighters that are dangerous to children are no longer placed on the European marketplace. The Decision requires Governments to ensure that common cigarette lighters placed on the EU market are child-resistant. It also forbids the placing on the market of lighters which resemble objects that are particularly attractive to children (also called "novelty lighters"). Luxury lighters are not covered by this ban but must still comply with the general safety requirements for these products.

"I welcome the coming into force of these important requirements, which will foster consumers', and in particular children's, safety in Europe", said European Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva. "The industry has had 10 months to adapt their production and for a very small cost, estimated at a few eurocents per lighter, producers can enhance consumer confidence and contribute to the reduction of significant numbers of fires, incidents and deaths. As a considerable number of lighters are imported from the Far East, and in particular from the People's Republic of China, I will continue the co-operation with the Chinese authorities to ensure these new requirements are fully understood and adhered to."

The current text is valid until May this year, and on 13 February Member States in the General Product Safety Committee voted unanimously in favour of extending the measures and agreed to set a deadline for the supply to consumers of non-child resistant and novelty lighters, which will be on 11 March 2008.

Why this Decision?

Misuse of cigarette lighters in play by young children causes a significant number of serious fire accidents. It is estimated that between 1,500 and 1,900 injuries and 34 to 40 fatalities per year in the EU are due to fire-related accidents caused by children playing with lighters. Child-resistance mechanisms exist to prevent such accidents, and their use has been mandatory in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand for some 10 years. The introduction of child-resistance requirements in the US resulted in a 60% reduction in the number of such accidents.

Cigarette lighters are consumer products which are inherently hazardous, since they produce a flame or heat, and contain fuel. They pose a serious risk when misused by children. This is particularly true in the case of disposable lighters, which are sold in large numbers, often in multi-packs, and used as low-value, throw-away products. Children may play with them and accidentally cause fires, serious injuries and deaths.

What is covered?

The child-resistance requirement of the Decision applies to roughly 98% of all lighters sold in the EU each year, including all disposable, plastic lighters and low-cost metal lighters. Certain lighters are not covered by the child-resistance requirement, because they are not so easily accessible to children. Nevertheless, they have to comply with a number of general safety requirements as laid down in a specific standard on lighter safety; EN ISO 9994. For lighters to be excluded from the child-resistance requirements they have to fulfil a number of technical criteria laid down in the Decision. In addition, the Decision bans the placing on the market of lighters which resemble objects that are especially appealing to children (for example toys, mobile phones, food, cars, etc.) and therefore present a high risk of misuse (so-called "novelty lighters").

What is a "child-resistant lighter"?

A European standard (EN 13869:2002) establishes child-resistance specifications for lighters. Lighters that comply with the relevant specifications of this European standard are presumed to conform to the Decision. Conformity is also presumed for those lighters that are in compliance with the child-resistance requirements of non-EU countries if such requirements are equivalent to those established by the Decision (such as those in the US).

How is the Decision going to work?

At the request of the Member States' competent authorities, manufacturers and importers will have to submit all relevant documents, including test reports on child-resistance. The test reports have to be issued by testing bodies that are accredited or recognised by the Member States competent authorities. Test reports may also be issued by a testing body whose reports are accepted by countries where child-resistance requirements equivalent to those in the Decision are in force (such as the US). Distributors will be required to cooperate with the competent authorities and provide them on request with the necessary documentation to trace the origin of the lighters they place on the market.

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