St. Charles Herald-Guide

Holiday traditions hard to break

By Patrick Yoes - July 13, 2006

Over the 4th of July extended weekend, St. Charles Parish residents were reminded of a couple of things. Fireworks are dangerous and banning them is only as effective as your neighboring parishís practice.

This 3rd and 4th of July, as the night skies above St. Charles Parish illuminated repeatedly with the glow of bottle rockets and showered multi-colored streaks of fire, it was hard to believe St. Charles Parish had outlawed this practice some twenty years ago.
For years now, we have heard the argument time and time again that fireworks are harmless, a practice that was as much a part of their holiday seasons as BBQ chicken and watermelons. They are fun, fascinating, and soothing to watch. And, in the opinions of many, they should be legal.

Yet, every time I hear this seasonal argument in support of legalizing the sale and use of fireworks in St. Charles Parish, it usually becomes silent with the news of some mishap that has robbed someone their health or life. Although St. Charles Parish was largely injury free this year, you still have a difficult time touting any creditable safety statistics.

With fireworks, the product itself is treacherous. Practicing safety with such a product doesnít always insure things wonít go astray. They are volatile and unpredictable. The product of cheaply manufactured explosives imported into the country with varied levels of quality.

Consider this. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, from June 23 to July 23 of last year, fireworks were the cause of 5,100 of the 7,600 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms; 25 percent of the injuries were related to the eye and an even larger injury was burns and damaged fingers.

It is extremely hard for the policing of fireworks here locally. In Lafourche Parish, the sale of fireworks has always been legal with the foot of the Des Allemands Bridge being a prime retail location for our neighbors. The same goes for St. John Parish. With that literally thousands of vehicles line the side of Airline Highway at the parish line as well.

So what now? It should be blatantly obvious that our firework ban is ineffective to say the least. We just donít have enough deputies to enforce a practice that generally accepted by so many jurisdictions. And, also apparent is that, although there are no guarantees, education cannot only minimize exposure of unsafe practices.

With the availability of fireworks all around us, taxing their sale may be able to give revenue to conduct a sound education program that not only addressed proper and safe handling of fireworks, but also teach a little holiday courtesy at the same time. Twenty years of banning fireworks hasnít worked, a little education just might do the trick.