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October 7, 2001

California Tobacco Company Agrees to Pay $225,000 Fine for Selling Dangerous Cigarette Lighters


 (SafetyAlerts) -  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that The Customer Company and Cigarettes Cheaper, both headquartered in Benicia, Calif., have agreed to pay $225,000 to settle allegations that it knowingly violated the Consumer Product Safety Act by selling disposable cigarette lighters that failed to meet government requirements for child resistance. The fine settles a lawsuit that was filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The CPSC alleged that The Customer Company and Cigarettes Cheaper, which operates more than 224 retail tobacco stores throughout California, violated the law in 1996 by selling cigarette lighters that were labeled as having a child-resistant safety mechanism, but in fact did not contain the mechanism. The Customer Company and Cigarette Cheaper illegally sold more than 27,000 such lighters.

In 1999, the CPSC again discovered that the defendants were illegally selling lighters in stores in Los Angeles, Daly City, Alameda, Redondo Beach, Gardena, Petaluma, Santa Ana, Walnut Creek, Oceanside, San Marcos, and Encinitas. In some stores the lighters were offered for sale without child-resistant safety mechanisms and in other stores employees were removing the safety mechanisms before selling them to consumers.

"Those selling cigarette lighters are on notice that the CPSC will not tolerate the flagrant disregard of laws intended to protect children and their families," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "The CPSC will vigorously investigate and seek prosecution of any company that knowingly violates our safety standards."

Since the enactment of the safety standard for cigarette lighters in July 1994, deaths to children are down 43%. Before cigarette lighters were required to be child-resistant, fire loss data revealed an estimated annual average of 7,250 residential structure fires, 190 deaths and 1,290 injuries that resulted from children under 5 playing with lighters. The resulting risk of death in those fires was more than three times the risk in residential fires generally.

In agreeing to settle this matter, Cigarettes Cheaper denies the CPSC's allegations and denies that it violated the Consumer Product Safety Act or any other laws administered by the CPSC.

Source: CPSC.

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