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States relax on consumer fireworks laws, reap benefits

States relax on consumer fireworks laws, reap benefits

From the The Business of Sin series

Editor's Note: This is the fourth story in a series of Sunday stories devoted to the business of sin. The Southern published an overview story of the series in June's edition of The Southern Business Journal. The first story ran Sunday, June 12, and covered revenue generated by gambling. The second story was June 19 and was on alcohol and tobacco taxes. The third was June 26 and was about taxes on adult entertainment.

While Illinois holds to regulations on consumer fireworks, over the past four years several states have lifted bans on sales for most types of consumer fireworks.

Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, said states can expect to generate more than $800 million combined from consumer fireworks after this year's Independence Day celebrations.

"Consumer fireworks sale has steadily increased in recent years," Heckman said. "As a result of the state laws relaxing to allow the sale and use of consumer fireworks, there are 47 states — plus the District of Columbia — that allow the sale and use of some type of consumer fireworks," Heckman said.   

In 2015 alone, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Utah, and West Virginia have all relaxed laws for sales and purchases of consumer fireworks to generate additional funds for state revenue. In neighboring states such as Indiana, Heckman said relaxed laws have been very beneficial. 

"Lifted restrictions on the sale of most types of fireworks (are) driven by tax incentives — whether to make up for a hole in the state’s’ budget, or a way (to generate) additional tax revenues," Heckman said. 

With a 7 percent sales tax, and a 5 percent public safety fee on consumer fireworks, Indiana uses its revenue from consumer fireworks to finance Fire Safety Training. Likewise, in West Virginia, a 12 percent tax on consumer fireworks generates revenue to support veterans.

Although Illinois misses out on reaping economic benefits of a relaxed consumer fireworks law, individuals within the state still suffer a significant amount of injuries from fireworks banned in the state.

Related injuries 

According to an annual report generated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimate of 11,900 injuries occurred in 2015 as a result of consumer fireworks.  

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This is an increase to the estimated 10,500 fireworks-related injuries in 2014.

In 2015, the state of Illinois reported 149 individuals with fireworks-related injuries.

Of the 149, the Division of Fire Prevention reported 32 injuries due to mortars, 21 injuries as a result of sky bottles, or air rockets, and five as a result of smoke and cherry bombs — all of which are banned in the state.  

The Indiana Department of Health reported 181 cases of fire-work related injuries.

Of these cases, 89 percent of injured individuals provided a home address in Indiana, 4.4 percent reported out-of-state addresses and 6.1 percent did not report an address.   

Marion, Lake and St. Joseph counties reported the most cases of firework-related injuries, with 29, 10 and eight cases, respectively.

Illinois regulations and penalties

Under the Pyrotechnic Use Act the state of Illinois permits the use of sparklers, but bans sales and possession of all consumer fireworks — which include firecrackers, bottle rockets and roman candles.

Individuals found in violation of the act not only receive a fine of $2,500 from the state, but may also serve up to one year in prison.   

Eliminating penalties and the amount of injuries that individuals suffer as a result of recklessly handling fireworks, Heckman said the American Pyrotechnics Association expects to see more remaining states pick up on Indiana's taxation on consumer fireworks.  

"In 2011 Indiana took in $2.5 million from the special 5 percent public safety tax -- they were the first one to (implement the special tax) and I think that’s why other states started looking at it," she said.


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Nefeteria Brewster is a reporter covering Marion and Williamson County.

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