Prodded by Congress and consumer groups, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said last week it is launching an effort to make cigarette lighters child-resistant.
Children playing with lighters were blamed for 7,800 fires leading to 120 deaths, 860 injuries and $60.5 million in property damage in 1985, the agency said in announcing its action.
It "concluded that cigarette lighters available today are not child-resistant. To provide such child resistance, changes in lighter design may be required."
Lighter makers have noted that they already include warning labels on packages that lighters should be kept away from children.
The commission did not say what changes in lighter design may be likely, but making them harder to operate may be one possibility.
The commission said that 96 percent of lighters involved in accidents or fires were disposable butane models.
The butane lighters have also been criticized because of instances in which some exploded in use or failed to extinguish when the lever was released. However, those problems are not the main reason for the current action.
A decade ago, the commission investigated matchbook safety and directed manufacturers to move the striking surface from the front to the back of packs of matches, lessening the chance of a stray spark igniting the whole book in someone's hand.