Surgeons renew call for end of fireworks being packaged as ‘toys’

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A group of plastic and reconstructive surgeons have renewed their calls for graphic warning labels, similar to those found on cigarette boxes, to be used on fireworks packaging.

The campaign, led by British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS), is now in its second year. A poll by the group found that almost 70% of parents would support such a change to firework packaging.

Mark Henley, consultant plastic surgeon and president of BAPRAS, said, “Another year has now passed and the (UK) Government has failed to take appropriate action to reduce the number of children and young adults who sustain life-changing injuries from the misuse of fireworks. Although packaged as toys, these are serious explosives, and the types of reconstructive surgery being required would not be out of place in a war zone.”

The group said that with many public firework displays either already postponed, or expected to be postponed, it is likely that there will be an influx of people carrying out firework displays at their home.

BAPRAS added that with the additional strain on the NHS due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the group is urging people to not set off their own firework displays in order to reduce the risk of people seeking medical attention.

In recent years there has been a dramatic decline in the number of injuries caused by fireworks. In 2018-19 1,936 people visited A&E due to firework injuries, while 2019-20 saw only 55 A&E visits due to fire work injuries.

However, BAPRAS has warned that this could rise ‘dramatically’ this year due to the increase in home displays. Mr Henley commented, “Every November, plastic surgeons across the UK witness serious injuries caused by fireworks, with many patients requiring multiple rounds of complex reconstructive surgery. With the NHS stretched to capacity due to Covid-19 and a huge backlog for surgical procedures, we simply cannot afford for an increase in preventable injuries and urge people to think twice before purchasing fireworks for personal use.”

Alastair Brown, consultant plastic surgeon at the Ulster Hospital in Belfast, added, “As a plastic surgeon who manages trauma including injuries caused by fireworks and has experience of just how dangerous they can be if misused, I have seen first-hand some devastating and life-changing consequences. I fully appreciate the entertaining aspect of fireworks when handled correctly, but they pose a significant risk even in the safest of hands. It is always a tragedy to see the effects of these preventable injuries. Patients may require multiple surgeries and there can be a profound life-long impact on function, appearance and psychological wellbeing.

“This year, more than ever, I am urging people to be most considerate to the circumstances and the pressures within the NHS. If organised displays have been cancelled in your area, please think twice before resorting to private displays – the potential risk is just too high and unnecessary at this time.”