The number of people treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with fireworks (by year):
SOURCE: Consumer Products Safety Commission, Prevent Blindness
Ohio law still allows the sale and purchases of consumer class fireworks, but this year’s Independence Day will be the first that does not require buyers to sign a form identifying themselves and acknowledging state law prohibitions against using fireworks.
The “liar’s law” form was a specific requirement for decades in Ohio statutes requiring anyone buying anything other than “novelty” items to sign off on a promise they would take the fireworks out of Ohio within 48 hours.
Nancy Rozzi, president of Rozzi’s Fireworks, said she and her employees still convey a verbal message to customers about complying with the decades-old state law banning consumer grade fireworks from being ignited in the state but fireworks displays in Ohio “have been going on for years and years.”
“People have been buying fireworks and shooting fireworks in Ohio, they just decided to eliminate the form,” said Rozzi, the fourth-generation of her storied family business. “It is still illegal.”
Those in Ohio wishing to purchase consumer class fireworks, including bottle rockets and Roman candles, still may do so assuming they are 18 or older and take the over the state’s borders within 48 hours of purchase. Failing to do so and getting caught possessing the incendiary devices or discharging them means being slapped with a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
Rozzi said when the law against consumer grade fireworks was first enacted, fireworks products were not labeled as specifically as they are now and were not as safe as they are now.
“Progressively, over the years, the fireworks became safer for a consumer to use, plus there are a lot of states that allow fireworks and two of the states that do, Indiana and Kentucky, border us, so you could go to either state and buy them and bring them over here,” she said. “The legislators decided, to control it somewhat, they instituted the form.”
As long as a consumer reads label directions and operates in a safe way, “fireworks are just as safe as anything else,” Rozzi said.
“I’ve been in the business all my life and that’s what I know,” she said.
Ohio is among the four states that allow only sparklers and/or other novelties, along with Illinois, Iowa and Vermont. Three states — Delaware, Massachusetts and New Jersey — ban all consumer fireworks.
Brennan Ryan, of West Chester Twp., stopped by Rozzi's Fireworks' retail location in Loveland on Thursday to purchase fireworks for a planned celebration at his in-laws' home in Indiana, a state that permits residents to set off consumer-grade fireworks.
He said the “liar’s law” form was a technicality eliminated because it became “a moot point.”
“I’ve lived in Ohio most of my life and several days around the Fourth of July, you see fireworks going off all around your neighborhood and if you drive around you see people are doing it all the time,” he said. “It was pretty obvious things weren’t really being enforced.”
“I’ve had neighbors setting off some pretty serious things before and I’ve never seen police around when fireworks are going off in Ohio, that’s for sure,” he said.
Sherry Williams, president and CEO, of Prevent Blindness’ Ohio affiliate, said regardless of the “liar’s law” form being a thing of the past, setting off consumer fireworks in Ohio is still illegal.
“The paperwork was eliminated but in terms of what we believe is safe, we don’t believe that setting off explosives of any type, plus the use of sparklers, is safe in any way,” Williams said. “We knew that they cause great injury.”
Statistics released this week by the Consumer Products Safety Commission bear that out.
In 2015, about 11,900 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with fireworks, up from 10,500 in 2014 and more than almost every other year in the past decade, according to commission estimates.
Sixty-seven percent of these estimated injuries occurred in a one-month special study period around July 4 — June 19, 2015 to July 19, 2015. A majority of the injuries involved hands and fingers, the head — including face, eyes, and ears — plus legs and arms.
Children under the age of 15 years old accounted for 38 percent of the estimated injuries, up from 35 percent in 2014.
“Whether one breaks the law or not is their choice and we would hope that Ohioans obey the law and also keep their neighborhoods and their families safe,” Williams said. “I would liken it (elimination of the form) to driving drunk. We don’t need to sign a paper saying ‘I will not drive drunk’ but driving drunk is still illegal and still dangerous.”
“I’m not sure how people’s minds work, but discharging 1.4G backyard fireworks in Ohio remains illegal whether or not somebody signs a paper or they don’t,” she said.