EU Commission Decision on child-resistant disposable cigarette lighters and on the banning of novelty lighters
On 11 May 2006 the Commission adopted a Decision requiring Member States to ensure that, in the near future, disposable cigarette lighters are child-resistant when placed on the EU market. The Decision also prohibits the placing on the market of lighters which resemble objects that are particularly attractive to children. Luxury and semi-luxury lighters are excluded from the scope of the Decision, but must comply with the general safety requirements for all these products.
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 brought about 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 a flammable fuel. They pose a serious risk when misused by children. This is particularly relevant in the case of disposable lighters, which are sold in huge numbers, often in multi-packs, and used as low-value, throw-away products. Children may play with them and cause serious fires, injuries and deaths.
What is covered?
The child-resistance requirement of the Decision covers all disposable lighters, which account for roughly 98% of lighters sold in the EU each year. Such lighters are often left unattended and are thus easily accessible to children. Luxury and semi-luxury lighters are not covered by the child-resistance requirement, but are subject to the general safety requirements of Directive 2005/95/EC on general product safety, backed up by a specific standard on lighter safety (EN ISO 9994).
In addition, the Decision bans the placing on the market of lighters which resemble objects that are especially appealing to children, such as toys for example, and therefore present a high risk of misuse (so-called “novelty lighters”).
When is a lighter child-resistant?
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 conform to 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 by a member of International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), or recognised by a Member State authority. 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.
When will the Decision come into force?
The Decision was notified to Member States on 11 May 2006. Member States now have to take the necessary measures to comply with the Decision within four months of the date of notification, namely by 11 September 2006.
Subsequently, Member States must ensure as of ten months from the date of notification of the Decision, that is to say from 11 March 2007 onwards, that all disposable cigarette lighters placed on the market are child-resistant, and that child-appealing lighters (“novelty lighters”) are prohibited.
All existing stocks of non-child-resistant disposable cigarette lighters, if already on the market before 11 March 2007, may still be sold. There are plans to adopt a further Decision setting a deadline for the selling off of these stocks.