The sale of lighters in the United States is a bit of a grey area as it can fall under the umbrella of what the law may consider a ‘tobacco product’, this does not mean that it is necessarily illegal to purchase a lighter as a minor.
What does it mean then?
It means that although it is legal in most areas of the United States for a minor to purchase a lighter that it is often at the discretion of the store selling it whether they deem it a ‘tobacco product’ or not. You can legally buy a lighter at any age from a merchant that is willing to sell it, you can even find Bic Lighters for sale on Amazon.
- There is no age restriction on the sale of lighters or matches in the US, however many stores will not sell to minors.
- Non-novelty lighters that meet child safety requirements such as these Bic Lighters can be purchased on Amazon
- It is unlawful to sell novelty lighters to children in some states such as Illinois
- Selling substandard lighters or lighters that lack child-resistant mechanisms is unlawful in most states.
- Victims of defective lighters may file a personal injury claim.
- It is unlawful to sell choking hazards to children.
- If you sell a choking hazard to a child, you may face a “choking hazard lawsuit.”
You may legally buy a lighter at any age. However, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission requires lighter manufacturers to include child-resistant safety mechanisms in their products. Also, if a child uses a lighter to commit a crime, or if you sell a defective lighter, you may face civil action. Additionally many states have laws restricting the sale of ‘tobacco products’ to minors, this grey area can sometimes be enforced at a stores discretion – for example they may not sell a small cigarette lighter to minors, but may feel it is ok to sell a long nosed lighter.
Can you buy a lighter under the age of 18?
As mentioned, you may purchase a lighter or matches regardless of age. The reason for that is the FDA does not consider lighters or matches as tobacco products, meaning there are no regulations on the items.
Most states have expanded the list of tobacco products to include electronic pipes, electronic cigarettes, and electronic cigars. For example, under Alabama code section 28-11-13 “unlawful for minors to purchase, use, possess, or transport tobacco; tobacco products or alternative nicotine products,” it is unlawful for minors to quote:
“To purchase, use, possess, or transport tobacco, tobacco product, or alternative nicotine product within this state. It shall not be unlawful for a minor employee of a tobacco, tobacco product, or alternative nicotine product permit holder to handle, transport, or sell tobacco, tobacco product, or alternative tobacco product if the minor employee is acting within the line and scope of employment and the permit holder, or an employee of the permit holder who is 21 years of age or older, is present.”
In other words, if it is a nicotine product or byproduct, it should not be sold to kids. In some states this law is a bit more of a grey area as a cigarette lighter could fall under the category of ‘tobacco product’.
What if a child commits arson? Is the store owner liable?
If the product is defective, yes, you or the manufacturer could be liable. Why?
Product liability laws are a set of rules that govern the sale, distribution, and manufacture of products. If you are a lighter manufacturer or retailer in the US, these laws require you to ensure the following standards:
- At least 85% of children who tested the product must not be able to make the lighter work.
- The child-resistant safety mechanism built into the lighter must reset whenever someone uses the product.
- The lighters’ child resistance mechanism must work properly for the expected life of the product.
- The child resistance mechanism must not be easy to override.
What if you sell a lighter that does not meet these requirements to a minor?
The statute reads in part, quote:
“It shall be unlawful for any person to— (1) sell, offer for sale, manufacture for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the United States any consumer product, or other product or substance that is regulated under this chapter or any other Act enforced by the Commission, that is not in conformity with an applicable consumer product safety rule under this chapter, or any similar rule, regulation, standard, or ban under any other Act enforced by the Commission”
It is also worth noting that under the act, it is unlawful to sell toys or products that are choking hazards to children. Lighters are a choking hazard, meaning if you sell one to a child, and the child chokes on it, you may face criminal charges and a civil lawsuit (depending on state law).
What are the penalties for selling dangerous products to a child?
Section 2069 “civil penalties” states that anyone who knowingly sells hazardous products to a child or violates prohibited acts mentioned in section 2068 is subject to civil penalties not exceeding $10000 for each violation.
What to do if you or a child buys a defective lighter
A defective lighter may ignite in your face, and it could be a choking or safety hazard. If you find yourself in this situation, you have the option to file a personal injury claim against the manufacturer or distributor.
We recommend consulting with a product liability attorney before the statute of limitations expires.
Remember, you must prove that the lighter was the cause of your injuries or property damage.
Novelty lighters are illegal in Illinois?
Under the Retail sale and Distribution of Novelty Lighters Prohibitions Act, it is unlawful in the state to sell lighters that are attractive to children. Consequently, if you are in Illinois, you should not sell lighters that have the following features to a child:
- A lighter that has a toy-like design
- Flashing lights
- Musical sounds
- Attractive visual designs
The state defines novelty lighters as, quote:
“Novelty lighter” means a mechanical or electrical device typically used for lighting cigarettes, cigars, or pipes that are designed to resemble a cartoon character, toy, gun, watch, musical instrument, vehicle, animal, food or beverage, or similar articles, or that plays musical notes, or has flashing lights, or has other entertaining features.”
What is the penalty for selling novelty lighters to a child?
Under section 720 ILCS 668/20 the penalty for selling novelty lighters to kids is a $500 fine for each offense. The section reads in part, quote:
“A person who is employed as a clerk by a retail establishment shall not violate this Act unless he or she sells a novelty lighter with the intent to violate this Act.”
Not legally, but some stores may require it if they deem a lighter to be a ‘tobacco product’.
No. But legal experts recommend that retailers avoid selling lighters or other potentially dangerous products to children, so the store may sell it at their discretion. Some stores may even have policies in place where selling a cigarette lighter such as a Bic is not allowed, but they may sell a long nosed barbecue lighter to a minor.