Plastic surgeons call for cigarette-style warnings on fireworks

In 2017-18, 4,436 people visited emergency departments in England because of an injury caused by a firework.
In 2017-18, 4,436 people visited emergency departments in England because of an injury caused by a firework. Photograph: Pete Saloutos/Getty Images/Blend Images

Fireworks packaging should have cigarette-style graphic warnings showing the impact of life-changing injuries, plastic surgeons have said as Great Britain prepares to celebrate Bonfire Night.

The number of people going into A&E in England because of an injury caused by a firework has more than doubled since 2009-10 and the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) says more must be done to make people aware of the dangers of firework misuse.

It believes mandatory graphic warnings, which are supported by seven out of 10 parents in Britain according to a YouGov poll, would help highlight the risks.

The president of BAPRAS, David Ward, said: “We are extremely concerned about the continued misuse of fireworks, particularly by those under the age of 18 away from organised events. Although packaged in a jovial, toy-like fashion, people forget that when using fireworks, they are handling explosives which can cause extremely serious injuries that may require extensive reconstructive surgery.

“With many of our surgeons having to attend to these types of injuries each year, BAPRAS is calling on the government to make a common-sense change by legislating to ensure all firework packaging in the UK includes mandatory graphic warning notices, similar to those found on cigarette packaging.”

In 2017-18, 4,436 people visited emergency departments in England because of an injury caused by a firework, compared with 2,141 in 2009-10.

Half of all people admitted to hospital due to fireworks last year were aged 18 or under and four out of five of those admitted were male.

BAPRAS said there had been a positive shift in recent years towards more responsible marketing for other products which pose a threat to health and wellbeing, including gambling, alcohol, cigarettes and junk food, but firework packaging “continues to echo the visual language of sweets and games”. Warnings are buried in small boxes on the back, it says.

A 25-year-old man from Wales said a firework thrown by a friend had “massive consequences” after it landed by his feet and exploded in his hand when he picked it up to move it.

“I’ve had five operations, with plastic surgeons reconstructing parts of my fingers, and, months later, I still might have three operations to go,” he said. “The accident has had a huge impact on my life. I can’t feed myself or play with my newborn kid, as I’d like to, all because of messing around with fireworks. I think this campaign to include warnings on firework packaging is a great idea. A clearer warning label might have made me and my friend think twice about the potential dangers.”

The demand for mandatory graphic warnings is supported by the Royal College of Surgeons and the British Society for Surgery of the Hand. The Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick has tabled a parliamentary question asking the government whether it will make an assessment of the potential benefits of legislation introducing such a measure.

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