Leading plastic surgeons are calling on the Government to introduce graphic warnings on all firework packaging, with the number of patients attending A&E due to related injuries more than doubling in recent years.
Despite awareness campaigns and repeated safety warnings issued each year, a significant number of life-altering injuries occur across the UK every winter, particularly among those who are not attending organised events.
The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) said that in recent years there has been a positive shift towards more responsible marketing for products which pose a threat to health and well-being, such as gambling, alcohol, cigarettes and junk food.
But it said firework packaging continues to echo the visual language of sweets and games – with warnings buried in small boxes on the back of the item – and colourful stalls are often set up at the front of stores.
The BAPRAS, which described itself as the “voice of plastic surgery in the UK”, said it believes that an overhaul of firework packaging is required to reduce the growing number of unnecessary and life-changing injuries sustained from the misuse of fireworks, which often require extensive reconstructive surgery.
In England last year, 4,436 individuals attended A&E because of an injury caused by a firework – more than double the 2,141 in 2009/10.
Half of those admitted to hospital due to the discharge of fireworks were aged 18 or under and 80% were male.
Research carried out by YouGov found that in the light of this, 68% of UK parents would support the introduction of graphic warnings on firework packaging.
Dylan, 25, from Wales, said injuries he sustained from a firework have had a “huge impact” on his life.
He said: “People think fireworks are just a bit of fun but for me they’ve had massive consequences.
“My friend threw a firework which landed by my feet.
“When I picked it up to move it out the way, it exploded in my hand leaving me really badly injured.
“I’ve had five operations, with plastic surgeons reconstructing parts of my fingers, and months later I still might have three operations to go.
“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.”
BAPRAS president and consultant plastic surgeon 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.”
The campaign is supported by the Royal College of Surgeons, the British Society for Surgery of the Hand, and Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick.
Mr Fitzpatrick said: “Unfortunately, many of the fireworks used today are more powerful and therefore more dangerous than the ones we dealt with when I was a firefighter in the London Fire Brigade.
“Right here in east London I have seen first-hand how children are using these explosives as weapons, firing them at passers-by and even our emergency services.
“The alarming figures raised by BAPRAS today make clear the urgent need for Government to introduce graphic warnings on firework packaging, clearly demonstrating the dangers of misuse.”
– YouGov questioned 2,020 adults for the survey last month.