• Robyn McDonald
Consumer Affairs

Minister of Consumer Affairs Hon Robyn McDonald is pushing ahead to introduce a mandatory safety standard to make disposable cigarette lighters and refillable lighters child-resistant.

"I am determined to ensure there is no more senseless loss of life or needless destruction of property from the misuse by children of cigarette lighters.

"I intend to move as quickly as possible to make child-resistant cigarette lighters mandatory.

This announcement follows the receipt of a report from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs on public submissions made in response to the Minister's consultation under the Fair Trading Act relating to the introduction of a product safety standard for cigarette lighters.

The report recommends that mandatory safety standard be introduced for disposable cigarette lighters and refillable lighters with a manufactured cost of less than $A2.

The Minister said that the next step is to consult with all "substantially affected" parties including manufacturers and importers as soon as possible. The Minister intends to do this to gain any further views on the recommended standard and its implementation.

"A mandatory standard is not a new concept. Australia, the United States and Canada have all introduced mandatory safety standards that protect property and lives from the improper use of lighters by children.

"I do not accept that industry self-regulation will work in this case," the Minister said.

"The fact that an increasing number of poorly-designed lighters and novelty lighters that naturally encourage children to use them as toys, are currently on the market indicates to me Government needs to apply some standards to protect people and property.

"Only yesterday, my Ministry had to warn a Hamilton shop keeper against selling an imported lighter shaped like a gun. This product is highly dangerous and not child-resistant. This is a clear example that the industry cannot regulate itself."

Virtually all the submissions supported the introduction of a mandatory standard. Among the supporting reasons were:

the increasing number of fatalities, injuries and property loss associated with children playing with lighters;
the widespread availability of poorly-designed and structurally problematic lighters;
a lack of smoke detectors in New Zealand homes; and
a trend towards novelty lighters which are attractive to children.
The few submissions opposing the introduction of a mandatory standard cited difficulties in enforcing the standard and a preference for industry self-regulation.

"I have already substantially shortened the time frame for this process due to the grave nature of the damage to life and property this issue represents. I intend to continue to fast track the next stages of the process to create a mandatory standard in the shortest time possible to prevent further tragedies," the Minister said.