Proposed Novelty Lighter Ban Sparks Neb. Debate

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- A bill to ban the retail sale of novelty lighters that resemble toys is sparking debate among Nebraska lawmakers.

"I believe that we don't need this piece of legislation and that's why I opposed it in committee and continue to oppose it," said Sen. Colby Coash.

"These kind of lighters are not necessary," said Sen. Ken Haar.

"There's no end in the 'nanny' state. We can regulate and make every kid wear a helmet and pads everywhere they go. I mean it never stops. We need to hold parents responsible," said Sen. Bill Kitner.

Senators failed to reach a vote Tuesday on a proposal intended to keep the lighters away from children. Supporters say some of the lighters resemble animals, tractors, blow dryers, cell phones, coins and cameras.

Fifteen states have passed similar laws. Neighboring Iowa has no legislation introduced, but South Dakota and Colorado have pending bills.

Sen. Les Seiler of Hastings says children are naturally drawn to the lighters and could hurt themselves or damage property.

"One that bothers me the most was a tractor and I've got a 4-year-old grandson that is absolutely enthralled with tractors and if he's looking at the tractor and pushes down on the button his whole front of his clothing will go up in flames," said Seiler.

Opponents questioned whether they pose a greater threat than normal lighters or candles. Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln says parents should take responsibility for keeping the lighters away from children.

Lincoln Chief Fire Inspector Bill Moody actually collects these novelty lighters. "People like them, they are attractive, they're interesting, they're different looking."

Moody says even though they are fun to look at, they can be a risk for kids.

"They like to play with them...roll on it and we do see some pretty consequential fires as a result," said Moody.

LB 403 had a couple proposed amendments at the end of the debate on Tuesday. The discussion will pick up in the morning on Wednesday.