Lighters Look Like Toys, Yet Are Legal

Lighters Look Like Toys, Yet Are Legal

CREATED Feb 20, 2008

If you're a parent, one of the last things you'd probably do is let your child play with matches or a lighter.

But what if the lighter looks just like their favorite toy?

A NewsChannel 5 investigation has discovered lighters just like that are sold in stores around Middle Tennessee.

And they're perfectly legal.

But as consumer investigator Jennifer Kraus found, if these lighters end up in children's hands, kids can end up playing with fire.

Children know that lighters aren't toys.

Just show a group of young kids a lighter and ask, "Do you play with these?"

And, in unison, they'll give you a resounding, "No!"

Ask those same kids, "Are lighters dangerous?"

And they'll emphatically tell you, "Yes!"

But what would those children say about lighters that we found that look and sound just like toys.

We found a cute red bear that you push down its ear and the flame comes out the top. A Christmas tree has flashing lights and plays "Jingle Bells."

We also found a novelty lighter that looks just like the toy version of a forklift we found.

Jeff Huddleston with the Tennessee State Fire Marshal's Office says, "You're taking something that is deadly and you're making it appealing to children and that's wrong."

And some of them are very easy to operate, not like your typical kind of lighter.

"It doesn't take much effort at all," Huddleston says, demonstrating several lighters.

We also found a lighter that looks just like a small camera. You push the button on one side and the flame shoots out the top.

So, just imagine what would happen if a child put the lighter to his eye like he would a real camera and then clicked.

Novelty lighters have already been blamed for the deaths of at least three children, including a two-year old boy and his younger brother in Arkansas. They set their apartment on fire playing with a lighter that looked like a toy motorcycle.

Parents we talked with couldn't believe that we found these novelty lighters being sold right at the checkout counter down at a child's eye level and within a child's reach.

But watching their own children is what really upset these parents.

The state fire marshal office's Jeff Huddleston showed a group of kids between the ages of three and seven several of these novelty lighters.

But, the kids never realized they were lighters. Instead they all thought they were toys. And, soon they were doing just what kids do with toys.

Fortunately, we had emptied all of the lighters beforehand, because even a 3 year old had little trouble getting them to work.

And remember that lighter that looked like a camera?

Tatum Hauck, mother of twin boys who are 5, watched as every single child picked up that camera, put it right up next to their eye and clicked.

"Oh, no way," the shocked mother exclaimed. "You've got to be kidding me. It's truly unbelievable. Every one of their eyes would have been scorched."

Huddleston shows another novelty lighter that looks like a small baseball bat. He rolls it around between his fingers showing, "There's nothing on here that's warning me what this is."

And that's why Huddleston says it's not just kids who mistake these for toys.

"I find more parents than children that don't know what these are," Huddleson explains.

So, he says, that how parents think they're buying a toy and instead their child winds up playing with fire.

There's nothing in the law that says you can't sell lighters that appeal to kids.

The only thing the law requires is that these lighters be child-resistant, meaning that most children can not make them work.

But, as we found, the kids had no trouble making many of the lighters we had work.

In Arkansas, more than a dozen towns have banned the lighters since those two little boys died after playing with one back in September.

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