Ohioans no longer have to promise to take fireworks out of state

For decades, Ohioans did a wink-wink, nudge-nudge when they bought fireworks and signed a form promising they’d use their firecrackers, Roman candles and bottle rockets out of state within 48 hours.

Based on the noise on Fourth of July, it’s clear that plenty of people ignite fireworks right here in Ohio.

Since the 1980s, Ohio’s quirky fireworks statute has been known as the “Liar’s Law,” requiring a signed statement from the consumer. But tucked into the state budget bill signed Tuesday by Gov. John Kasich is a provision that eliminates the consumer statement.

But that doesn’t mean Ohio’s fireworks laws will be free of quirks and peculiarities.

“You no longer will have to sign it, but you’re still required to take the fireworks out of state within 48 hours and it’s still illegal to set them off in Ohio,” said Sherry Williams of Prevent Blindness Ohio, which advocates for a total ban on the import, storage, sale and use of fireworks, including sparklers.

William Weimer, vice president of Phantom Fireworks, a wholesaler based in Youngstown, said getting rid of the form may cause confusion.

“In order to stop making people ‘quote unquote’ liars, they have eliminated the statement but haven’t changed the law. So, I think it’s going to be a bit confusing next year. It won’t be in effect this year,” he said. “It doesn’t clean it up at all. I think it confuses it a little more.”

John Center of Riverside shopped at TNT Fireworks Dayton on Union Street Wednesday with his girlfriend’s son, Josh Crandall, from Maine. Center said when he buys fireworks, he goes to Indiana or Kentucky to set them off and would like to see fireworks become legal in Ohio.

“I’m tired of going to Indiana to set my fireworks off,” Center said. “It’s my time, gas money, all that stuff.”

Late last year in the closing days of the legislative session, Ohio came close to legalizing the use of consumer fireworks without any time or date restrictions, but the bill fizzled in its final stages.

“I think Ohio is a couple of steps behind the neighboring states,” Weimer said, noting that Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky each legalized the use of consumer fireworks.

The only legal consumer fireworks in Ohio are novelty trick items that smoke, snap, snake or sparkle. Violation of Ohio’s fireworks law is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

Also included in the state budget bill was a two-year extension of a long-standing moratorium on the number of licenses issued to fireworks dealers and wholesalers. The cap stands at about 50 licensees.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Fireworks Annual Report states that 10,500 people were treated in emergency departments for firework-related injuries last year — and two-thirds of those injuries occurred during the one-month period around the Fourth of July.

Eleven fatalities and 21 structure fires were attributed to fireworks in 2014.

Weimer said the CPSC statistics are misleading because they lump together all fireworks-related injuries, including those from homemade devices or professional displays. He said that over the past 20 years, use of consumer fireworks has doubled while the number of injuries has dropped 16 percent.

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