Sean P. Kraus


On October 30, 2017, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania passed an act that repealed the state’s fireworks law, which had prohibited the sale of most fireworks to Pennsylvanian consumers for nearly 80 years. The law’s replacement generally permits Pennsylvanians over 18 years old to purchase, possess, and use “Consumer Fireworks.” Bottle rockets, firecrackers, Roman candles, and aerial shells are now available to amateur celebrants for holidays like Independence Day and New Year’s Eve. The law also regulates a category of larger “Display Fireworks,” sets standards for fireworks vendors, and introduces a 12-percent excise tax on fireworks sales that serves to fund a subsidy scheme for firefighter and EMS training.

This Comment argues that the new fireworks law insufficiently protects consumers. Although people have used fireworks recreationally for hundreds of years, modern consumers lack information about the risks associated with them, increasing the chance of fireworks-related injury. As Pennsylvania law has rapidly shifted its approach away from prohibition, the new law must confront the reality that consumers of legal fireworks risk injury at predictable times of the year. Rather than strictly fund firefighter and EMS training, the legislature should implement a Pigouvian tax and subsidy scheme which would strategically provide consumers with information about safe firework use. Additionally, the legislature should cure constitutional defects in the law’s definition section and promote fair competition between permanent and temporary vendors. Refining the new law will better promote the dual goals of modern fireworks regulation— facilitating celebration and preventing injury.



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