COLUMBUS -- Health advocates have issued their annual warning against the use of backyard fireworks, even as a new state law has eliminated the signing of formerly required paperwork by revelers buying supplies in the state.
Consumer class fireworks, including bottle rockets and Roman candles, can be purchased in Ohio by anyone 18 or older, but they cannot be used in the state.
Instead, they must be taken over the state's borders within 48 hours of purchase. The illegal possession or discharge of such fireworks can result in a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
An amendment added to last year's biennial budget bill now permits consumers to buy fireworks without signing a purchaser's form identifying themselves and acknowledging state law prohibitions against using fireworks.
The language took full effect after last year's Independence Day, so this year's July 4th holiday will be the first with the provision fully in effect, according to William Krugh, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Commerce.
Novelties, including sparklers, snakes, smoke bombs and snaps, are legal for backyard use, but all types of fireworks have been connected with injuries and property damage, according to Prevent Blindness, a group that annually urges Ohioans to forgo using any category of fireworks.
The group noted that about 10,500 people nationally went to emergency rooms in 2014 seeking treatment for fireworks-related injuries. Of that total, about 7,000 occurred in the month period around Independence Day, and sparklers accounted for 1,400 injuries.
"Unfortunately, this was just one of the many painful and serious injuries to children that I've seen related to fireworks over the years," Gary Smith, president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance and an emergency medicine physician at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, said in a released statement. "Our studies show that parental supervision is not enough to prevent consumer fireworks injuries to children - in fact, children who are simply bystanders and not even handling the fireworks are often injured.
"The words that I hear when parents bring their child crying in pain to the emergency department after a firework injury are always the same: 'Doctor, I can't believe that this happened to my child. I was standing right there, but it happened so fast that I could not do anything in time to stop it from happening.' These are good parents who simply believed the myth that these products could be used safely. Do not make that mistake with your family."