Rogue River gets tough on novelty lighter trade

ROGUE RIVER — As of Thursday night, those who sell or distribute novelty lighters — cigarette lighters that look like Matchbox cars, play cameras and other toys — in city limits face fines anywhere from $50 to $1,000.

City Council members Thursday unanimously approved the ban, making Rogue River the first city in Jackson County and the second in the state to ban novelty lighters.

Mark Northrop, fire marshal of the Rogue River Rural Fire District, proposed the idea last month following a national campaign declaring the toy look-alikes a safety hazard for children — both because of fire danger and because of the high lead content in the paint.

Rogue River's ordinance was passed with an emergency clause allowing one reading instead of two. It follows the city of Sandy, which enacted a ban in October.

Sen. Ron Wyden is lobbying for a bill that would declare novelty lighters a banned hazardous substance under federal law.

Northrop said he was pleased with the City Council's support of the ban and with cooperation from area businesses.

Most local businesses had agreed to voluntarily remove novelty lighters from store shelves, he said. One said it would sell the lighters until its supply ran out, he said.

"I thought it was awesome that the city unanimously supported the ordinance and that the community supports the idea," Northrop said.

"I hope that other cities around the state take that as an example of what they should be doing."

Northrop said he hoped to provide details on novelty lighters to officials from other local fire districts.

Rich Hoover, public information officer for the state fire marshal's office, said his office hoped for a statewide ban to be followed by a national boycott of novelty lighters.

"What we'd really like to see is a national bill that Senator (Ron) Wyden is leading the charge on and, from my understanding, might very well be reintroducing to the U.S. Congress just after the first of the year," Hoover said.

"We really like the fact that some cities are stepping up and taking the lead in keeping this issue in the forefront. We think the arguments are compelling and logical.

"Ultimately there's really, in our opinion, no good reason for a lighter to be manufactured to look like a toy."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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