Snap, crackle…STOP!
Local schools respond to legalization of ‘novelty’ fireworks
by Hannington Dia
Reporter Staff Writer
Jun 24, 2018 | 8203 views | 0 0 comments | 109 109 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FIREWORKS
Novelty fireworks like sparklers are now available in New Jersey stores.
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Just before July 4 last summer, then-Gov. Chris Christie changed New Jersey’s fireworks law to allow “novelty” fireworks like sparklers and “snap caps” to be sold in supermarkets and other stores. While the change was too close to the holiday for most sellers, this year, supermarkets and pharmacy chains like ShopRite, CVS, and Walgreens surprised customers with bountiful displays of small pyrotechnics.

As a result, local school superintendents have been discussing the matter, concerned that the items – which can be legally purchased by those 16 and up – may end up in schools, where fireworks are banned.

Hoboken school officials sent home memos two weeks ago about the matter. One memo said, “If you walk into ShopRite or even CVS, you will now see boxes of Phantom novelty fireworks. Things such as sparklers, snaps and party poppers are now legal for purchase and should be used by adults only.”

It added: “Since these items are so commercially available, they will most likely become more accessible to curious children” and urged parents to explain the dangers.

State law still bans the sale of aerial fireworks, firecrackers, sky rockets, and Roman candles.

North Bergen Schools Superintendent Dr. George Solter said last week that he expected to discuss the matter with other area superintendents. Solter said his district won’t send out a memo, but that the items aren’t allowed in schools. “We’re going to treat that as any other offense,” he said.

Union City Schools Superintendent Silvia Abbato said her district sends out letters at the end of each year warning parents about fireworks. “We are constantly working with the parents and the community regarding safety issues, especially during Fourth of July,” she said. “They’re a fire hazard.”

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One legislator said the state was missing out on tax revenue from the “$700 million consumer pyrotechnics industry.”

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Local stores

Several local stores said they’re only selling the items to people 18 or over.

At ShopRite at Columbia Park in North Bergen, a worker behind the customer service desk said the limit is 18 because the items are dangerous. “They can still light your house on fire,” he said.

According to Sam Hussein, the assistant manager for Walgreens on Park Avenue near the Weehawken/Union City border, customers must be at least 18 to purchase their novelty fireworks. When cashiers scan the items, a prompt comes up on the screen asking if the customer is 40 or older. Cashiers can ask for ID.

He said that doesn’t stop younger shoppers from trying. “They want to buy the little poppers,” he said. “I say, ‘No.’”

Directions printed on the small “snappers” at local stores say they should be used under close adult supervision.

Explaining the law

Last year, Gov. Christie said he hoped the change would keep residents from seeking higher-grade fireworks.

"You want to lessen the opportunity for someone to blow their hand off like JPP," he said on his radio show, referencing former Giants player Jason Pierre-Paul, who accidentally blew off fingers on his right hand while using aerial fireworks in 2015.

In a press release last June, Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli, who sponsored the looser legislation, said New Jerseyans were buying the items in other states, causing the Garden State to miss out on tax revenue from the “$700 million consumer pyrotechnics industry.”

Last week the Phantom fireworks company, based in Ohio, sent letters to newspapers around the country, advising pet owners to keep their animals indoors during fireworks shows and encouraging them to find ways to mask the sound so their pets aren’t scared.

Hannington Dia can be reached at hd@hudsonreporter.com

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