Adult-proof lighters

Saturday, November 24, 2007 at 15:28 | Posted in eu, smoking | 14 Comments

Hans-Jürgen Schlamp and Markus Verbeet write about EU regulating the daily life of citizens in Spiegel Online International. Without going in to the broader context of the topic I would like to pick one of the examples used to illustrate these regulations: the question of so called child-safe cigarette lighters. I incidentally wrote about child-proof lighters in my Finnish blog in July as the Swedish paper SvD reported that the Swedish government intends to bring in legislation about the lighters.

What is a child-safe cigarette lighter? I quote Schlamp and Verbeet:

Under an European Union regulation that goes by the code K (2007) 1567, as of March 11, 2008 only “child-safe” disposable lighters will be approved for sale in the EU. But first the lighters’ “child safety” must be demonstrated in a test laboratory. Under the regulation, a lighter is deemed acceptable (that is, child-safe), if no more than 15 of 100 kids aged less than 51 months manage to light it.

The main concern I expressed in my Finnish blog was that the everyday life of a smoking adult may become somewhat harder if technical obstacles are introduced to lighting a cigarette, an action that I perform 30-40 times each day. I have lots of unpleasant experience about so called child-proof packages of toxic substances such as solvents and cleaning lotions. Many of these packages tend to be quite adult-proof as well.

Lighting a cigarette in a windy weather may sometimes be hard enough as it is. I do not know about Brussels but November storms here in Helsinki may sometimes be harsh enough to make outdoors smoking something which requires skills of a pyromaniac to get started with. These child-secured devices may make it totally impossible to smoke outdoors same time as smoking indoors is prohibited in most public places.

Another quote from Schlamp and Verbeet:

But even the bureaucrats sometimes have their doubts about their own basis research. Now they warn that even a lighter labeled as “child-safe” in the future is “not necessarily safe for children,” adding that lighters should continue to “be kept out of reach of young children.”

Which brings me to my other point. No responsible parent would leave a box of matches within reach of an infant. So why would they leave a cigarette lighter accessible by a child?

Sales of tobacco and smoking products (lighters included) to minors is prohibited by law at least here in Finland. Since children are not in a possession to get hold of a cigarette lighter provided that their parents take elementary efforts in that direction, there does not seem to be a plausible reason to make lighters harder to use. Unless, of course, the issue of adult-proof lighters is another plot of the almighty anti smoking lobby.



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  1. I think you are right – we should keep an eye on this one. Apparently bans in the USA, NZ, Canada and Australia have reduced deaths and injuries caused by (and mainly to) children playing with cheap lighters by 60% per year. It is typical of governments to care about children dying. We must see if you and other adults burn to death in high November winds, and start an anti-agist campaign in your memory. Or we could collect money to get you one of those more expensive lighters that aren’t covered by the regulation.

    I wonder what the Little Match Girl would have thought?

  2. Hmm. That would almost suggest that parents in USA, NZ, Canada and Australia are irresponsible. It is sad that governments need to protect children against carelessness of their own parents.

    Many regulations of this sort are inconsistent in targeting the measures. Sometimes it would be enough to enforce existing regulations. A number of new legislative measures are currently being introduced here to make it harder for adults to buy alcoholic beverages whereby one of the main motivations voiced by the government and parliament is to protect teenagers from damage caused by alcohol. Yet, the teenagers (under 18) are by definition of law not entitled to buy alcohol at all.

    I did have a Zippo (which happens to be quite child-safe) for a number of years but it was eventually stolen as was to be expected. That is the very reason I use cheap disposable lighters. I would be happy to buy them from the Little Match Girl if she were around to sell them. Fortunately, though, her descendants are protected by conventions against exploiting child labor.

  3. They should certainly stop selling them down at child eye level with the chocolate in supermarkets. I remember the problem with expensive lighters, not that I had one more than once. I wonder what the child-proof lighters are like? I am also interested to discover terms like ‘child-resistant’, which sounds too good to be true.

  4. You would not find lighters sold at child friendly levels here. And persons under 18 are legally not allowed to buy one.

    I have never seen a lighter that would officially qualify as child-safe but I have had problems with several bottle corks supposed to be child proof. A while ago I had to cut a hole in a plastic bottle of drain clearing solution because I was unable to open the adult-proof bottle. My main concern is that this code is going to wash off the child with the flushing waterthrow out the baby with the bathwater, as it were. If these lighters are going to be made too difficult or uncomfortable to use, a lot of people may return to the old fashioned matches which are certainly not child-safe. Not to mention that people with a number of handicaps may be effected.

  5. Child-proof anything can also be problematic for elderly people, or the physically handicapped. Hey, I can’t even open a jar of pickles these days.

  6. Very true. I do not know how many jar cans I had to open for my mother.

  7. I don’t like to correct English, and I rather like ‘washing off the child with the flushing water’, which sounds ecologically sound (using the lavatory flushing water to wash the child?). ‘Throw out the baby with the bathwater’ is more common.

  8. Thanks, Margaret. I corrected it. It is no good excuse but I was tired when I wrote it. 🙂

  9. You take it better than I would! It drives me mad when I post a huge entry in German and one minute later I get a comment from a German, ‘Bitte nicht als Kritik auffassen, aber es ist *das* Armband’ …

  10. One of the reasons I never write anything in German. 😉

    I had been awake for 24 hours as I wrote the comment and I was searching the passive layers of my brain to find the correct expression which I recognized as soon as you wrote it.

  11. It’s just happened again on my latest photo entry. I think you’re right – the only solution is to stop writing German!

  12. Even Germans should stop writing German. 😀

  13. Last time I wrote some serious German was when I took my A levels. I doubt if I could pass the exam today. Not writing German would be less of an option for somebody who is German or earns their bread and butter translating. 🙂

  14. Yes, but I don’t translate into German, even though some Germans expect me to.

    TK: Yes, especially with people like Bastian Sick and his ilk around.

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