Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski gestures as he speaks at the Capitol in Salem Wednesday. Thursday he announced that he is optimistic that Congress will extend O&C federal timber payments for a year possibly heading off the closure of Jackson County’s libraries and giving local communities time to come up with alternative funding sources.

Novelty-lighter ban gains Senate approval

Toylike novelty lighters will disappear from Oregon store shelves soon, thanks to a bill banning their manufacture, sale and distribution that passed the Senate on Monday.

"This is an exciting day for the fire service," Oregon State Fire Marshal Randy Simpson said in a press release. "We're glad that Oregon senators and representatives have taken a leading role in keeping these deceptive devices out of the hands of children. This bill will save lives, prevent injury and property loss from fire."

Already approved by the House more than two weeks ago, the bill now heads to Gov. Ted Kulongoski's desk for his expected signature. It becomes effective 90 days after that.

The bill covers lighters with features attractive to children, such as visual effects, flashing lights, musical sounds and designs that resemble toy ducks, tractors, cartoon characters, vehicles, weapons, furniture, sports equipment, tools and holiday decorations.

Rogue River passed a law banning novelty lighters in November, becoming the second Oregon city behind Sandy to do so. Maine and Tennessee also have banned the lighters.

"I'm ecstatic, because now the whole state is protected, just like our town," said Mark Northrop, fire marshal of the Rogue River Rural Fire District and one of the champions of the bill.

Eleven stores in Rogue River voluntarily removed the lighters during an education campaign last year, said Northrop.

Merchants around the Rogue Valley said either they didn't carry the lighters or would remove them promptly.

Casey Hubbard, accountant for Black Bird Shopping Center in Medford, said the store carries novelty lighters shaped like rifles, fishing poles and other devices and will return them to the vendor. She added that the store has had no complaints.

Shane Normike of Pilot Travel Center in Central Point said Pilot used to carry novelty lighters but now only has lighters with graphics, logos and paw prints. Those will be removed if covered under the law, Normike said.

Mike Welch, owner of Puffs in Ashland, said he tried to sell novelty lighters but they didn't catch on.

"It's just another law pushing us toward the nanny state," Welch said. A novelty lighter is "not dangerous because it's dangerous. It's dangerous because parents aren't watching."

"There have been fires in Oregon that have been traced back to children playing with toylike lighters," Sen. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Washington County/Portland and chairwoman of the Senate Consumer Protection and Public Affairs Committee, said in a press release. "By removing these products from the shelves, we're helping to prevent fires and protect our children."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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