Sales of fireworks spike as states lift bans

Fireworks sales are skyrocketing for the Fourth of July this year in some parts of the country, as more states are loosening restrictions on the devices to capture tax revenue.

Georgia lifted a longtime ban July 1 on the sale of consumer fireworks that shoot into the air, such as bottle rockets, Roman candles and flying spinners—despite concerns from some legislators about safety. Consumers had been buying them in neighboring states. “We were losing out on revenue,” said former state Rep. Jay Roberts, who co-sponsored the legislation this spring before leaving office to take a state transportation planning job.

On Thursday morning, customers loaded up for the weekend in newly opened Phantom Fireworks, in Duluth, Ga. Standing in an aisle filled with Roman candles, Bob Schinke, 34, held a package called “Flashing Thunder.” He and his son debated whether to purchase bottle rockets as well.

“This should be enough to keep mom excited,” Mr. Schinke told his son.

Like Georgia, other states are easing longstanding prohibitions. For the first time since the early 1900s, New Yorkers can now buy sparklers and smaller “novelty” fireworks items in about half the state’s counties, though bottle rockets and other fireworks that burst in the air are still not allowed.

In Ohio, a measure inserted into the state’s $130.3 billion budget, signed by Gov. John Kasich Tuesday, will eliminate a form that people must sign promising to take items like firecrackers, bottle rockets and Roman candles out of state within 48 hours of purchasing them, though their use in the state will remain illegal. The form, to be eliminated in September, was widely known as the “liar’s form,” because people often ignite the fireworks in Ohio anyway.

The eased restrictions are expected to boost national sales of fireworks over the holiday weekend, predicted Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, a national trade group for the fireworks industry.

Since 2011, six states—Kentucky, Utah, New Hampshire, Maine and Michigan, along with Georgia—have lifted restrictions on the sale of most types of consumer fireworks, according to Ms. Heckman. Other states have loosened laws about sparklers and other smaller items, including New York, she said. Only three states—Massachusetts, New Jersey and Delaware—still completely prohibit fireworks sales.

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