Consumer fireworks are fireworks sold to the general public for use. They are generally weaker in explosive power compared to professional displays.
Consumer fireworks are often quite small and can be classified into three groups: daytime, nighttime, and novelty fireworks.
Daytime fireworks include most bottle rockets, smoke balls, firecrackers, and other fireworks that emit very little or no light. Some examples of daytime consumer fireworks include:
- Bottle Rockets — Launch into the air, sometimes with a high-pitched whistling sound, with a report at the end. Some varieties may emit sparks upon launch. Their sizes can range from an inch to about 6 inches (15 cm) long and 1/8 to 3/4 inches (3–19 mm) around, not including the stick. The smaller variety of these rockets are also commonly referred to as "Bottle Rockets" due to the commonality in which people use a bottle as a launching platform.
- Firecracker — An explosion occurs on the ground, often in a series. They range from 1 to 16,000+ on a single string.
- Smoke ball — Emits colored smoke for a few seconds. Colors typically include white, green, blue, yellow, orange, fuscia, red and pink.
- Multiple Rocket Launcher — More commonly known as the "Saturn Missile Battery" typically launches a series of 16 to 800 small rockets (dependent on the firework purchased) with a high-pitched whistle each time, often with a report.
Novelty fireworks typically produce a much weaker explosion and sound. In some Countries and areas where fireworks are illegal to use, they still allow these small, low grade fireworks to be used. A few examples include:
- Party Poppers — once a string is pulled to activate the charge, confetti is thrust into the air and produces a report.
- Snaps — a small paper bag typically filled with gravel and a few milligrams of silver fulminate will produce a report when thrown at a hard surface or stepped on.
- Flying Lanterns (Sky lantern) — these paper lanterns float into the sky when lit. They emit a slight glow and are very commonly used at weddings and celebrations.
- Paper Tanks & Vehicles — when lit, these small paper vehicles emit sparks that cause them to move around on the ground and commonly produce a loud bang at the end.
- Party Bombs — a tube filled with toys which, when lit, shoots the toys into the air distributing them around the room. Used in Switzerland (tischbombes).
- Ground Bloom Flowers — a small cylinder that spins on the ground and changes color, spinning in such a way that it resembles a flower. Could be described as a large Jumping Jack.
- Snakes (Black snake) — a small compressed pellet that, when lit, expands into a long snake-like object.
Consumer fireworks can be used with a variety of tools. One set of tools has to do with basic ignition, such as lighters, matches, and punks also known as a 'port fire'. By using a rack, one can ignite a series of different fireworks to create a scene. These sometimes allow for the finales seen at professional fireworks displays to be created using consumer fireworks. Racks can be used with multiple types of fireworks, such as aerial shells, fountains, Roman candles, and the newest class of fireworks, 500 gram repeaters. Other tools are involved with the setup of fireworks for later display, such as shovels, various hand tools, and spare visco fuses. The true scope of tools used with consumer fireworks is limited only by the displayer's imagination.
Lighting and launching
There are several ways by which fireworks can be ignited. The most basic of these is simply flame from a match, lighter or other device that emits flames. Another way to light fireworks is using a device called a punk. A punk is a long, thin piece of wood covered in a substance that burns very slowly, producing only heat, with no flame. A port fire is a smoldering compound as a powder compressed in a stiff paper tube. The most complicated method used to ignite consumer fireworks is to use electronic ignition. This is the preferred method of many professional pyrotechnicians worldwide because of the vast improvement in operator safety. There are a few electronic ignition (often called "e-fire") systems that use readily available materials.
Laws regarding consumer fireworks vary between countries and states.
In Finland, fireworks (other than novelties and sparklers) are usually sold between Christmas and New Years. It is legal to sell fireworks all year around (predominantly through online retailers). They may only be used on New Year's Eve from 6pm to 2am the following morning.
In Iceland, fireworks are sold from December 28–31 and again on January 6.
In Ireland, the import of consumer fireworks is strictly controlled, and the use of them must be overseen by a professional fireworks operator. This has led to considerable smuggling of fireworks from Northern Ireland, where regulations governing the sale of fireworks are more permissive.
In the Netherlands, fireworks (other than category 1) cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 16. They are only sold the last three days up till and including December 31. If one of those days is a Sunday, the sale period is moved to the 28 up till and including 30 December. Fireworks may only be fired between 6pm on New Year's Eve to 2am the following day.
In Norway, fireworks cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18. Class 1, 2 and 3 fireworks are for sale from December 27 to December 31. They may only be fired between 18:00h and 02:00h on New Year's Eve.
In the United Kingdom, fireworks cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18 and are not permitted to be set off between 11pm and 7am. Exceptions are made for New Year, Bonfire Night (5 November), the Chinese New Year and Diwali. Fireworks are available from specialist stores year round and their use is also permitted throughout the year within the specified time limits. The sale of Categories 1 (Indoor), 2 (Garden) and 3 (Display) are available to the general public — with Category 4 (Professional) being restricted to permit holders.
In Belgium, fireworks (except category 1) cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 16. Fireworks are available for purchase year round, but may only be used by police permission.
In Poland, fireworks cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18. Fireworks are available for purchase year round, but are primarily sold before New Year's Eve.
Fireworks laws vary across province. They make some noise, they sparkle, and according to all the experts, they are dangerous. However, it is legal in Canada to purchase a variety of consumer fireworks like Roman candles and star wheels.
The Western provinces, Such as Alberta and B.C. draw the line when it comes to home explosives.
In Alberta, it varies when it comes Fireworks and Explosives, the province last year considered a province-wide ban on fireworks (though the ban would have given cities wiggle-room to pass laws allowing certain displays).
In British Columbia, Fireworks on the West Coast aren’t even in the discussion for Canada Day, or Victoria Day for that matter.
In the Metro Vancouver, you can buy fireworks in Vancouver, Burnaby, West Vancouver and North Vancouver, as long as you’re within a week of Halloween (and with a permit), and Canada day, but you’re out of luck in Surrey, Richmond, Langley, and Abbotsford, and much of the lower mainland.
In Vancouver there is a tradition to light things off on Halloween.
In Ontario, Fireworks are sold around Canada Day and Victoria Day without a permit, and some GTA municipalities now allow fireworks on the Hindu festival of Diwali. In Toronto itself, you might get away with lighting them off on Chinese New Year, and it’s possible to score a permit for other occasions.
In Quebec St. Jean-Baptiste Day is a major fireworks day, but not necessarily the backyard variety. Fireworks are forbidden year round on the Island of Montreal, though allowed in much of the rest of the province.
In the United States, the laws governing consumer fireworks vary widely from state to state, or from county to county. It is common for consumers to cross state and county lines in order to purchase types of fireworks which are outlawed in their home-jurisdictions. Fireworks laws in urban areas typically limit sales or use by dates or seasons. Municipalities may have stricter laws than their counties or states do.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission defines what fireworks may be considered consumer fireworks. Consumer fireworks in the United States are limited to 500 grams (this was previously 200 grams until recent years) of composition, and firecrackers may have up to 50 milligrams of flash powder. Reloadable shells are limited to 1.75" in diameter, and shells in pre-fused tubes are limited to 2". Any fireworks that exceed these limits are not considered consumer fireworks and need an ATF license.
One state — Massachusetts— bans the sale and use of all consumer fireworks, including novelties and sparklers.
The following states allow the sale and use of non-aerial and non-explosive fireworks (also called "safe and sane") like novelties, fountains and sparklers, etc.: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
Delaware Governor John Carney signed into law a bill on May 20, 2018 allowing sparklers and non-explosive, non-airborne novelty items. The use is allowed only on July 4 and December 31 each year with sales limited to the 30 days preceding their allowed use.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill on November 21, 2014 allowing sparklers, party poppers, cone fountains and other novelty items to be sold, possessed, and used in the state of New York outside of New York City. Local governments must approve the sale and use of fireworks before people can legally use them. Although the use of fireworks is allowed year-round, the sale of fireworks, by registered businesses, is limited to a period of June 1 through July 5 and December 26 through January 2 each year.
Michigan legislators have passed and enrolled a bill that was signed by Governor Rick Snyder on December 13, 2011 allowing the sale and use of all consumer fireworks, however, sellers must pay a fee ($600–1000) to sell higher-power consumer fireworks, and a tax will be added to fireworks purchases.
California has very specific requirements for the types of consumer fireworks that can be sold to and used by residents. Even then each city can and often does place restrictions on sale and use. The use of firecrackers is permitted according to the FBGOC.
The following states permit the sale of all or most types of consumer fireworks to residents: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming (varies by county) and Georgia. Many of these states have selling seasons around the 4th of July and/or Christmas and New Year's Eve. Some of these states also allow local laws or regulations to further restrict the types permitted or the selling seasons.
Missouri permits all types of consumer fireworks to be sold to residents with two selling seasons; June 20 – July 10 and December 20 – January 2. South Carolina permits all types of consumer fireworks except small rockets less than ½” in diameter and 3” long to be sold and used by residents year round.
For example, Clark County, Nevada, where Las Vegas is located, allows residents to purchase and use only non-explosive and non-aerial consumer fireworks during the 4th of July, while other counties permit all types of consumer fireworks.
In Maine fireworks can only be sold to people over 21 at firework only stores except for sparklers that can be sold at stores that sell other items except for propane dealers or other explosives
Many states have stores with all types of consumer fireworks that sell to non-residents with the provision they are to remove the purchased fireworks from that state. This is why there are many stores selling fireworks in states like Ohio, Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada and Wisconsin with all types of consumer fireworks, even though residents are limited or prohibited from buying or using those very same consumer fireworks unless they have the appropriate licenses and/or permits.
Many Native American Tribes have consumer fireworks stores on reservation lands that are exempt from state and local authority and will sell to people that are not in the tribe.
In Australia, most states outlaw fireworks. They are only allowed to be sold and used on the 1st of July, one day a year in the NT, with restrictions on what time they can be used. NT regulates what fireworks cakes and novelties can be sold to the public. Tasmania also allows citizens to apply for a permit to use fireworks in certain circumstances. Fireworks are banned everywhere else. Small firecrackers were legal in the ACT on the queens birthday long weekend for ACT residents, but were banned in 2009 due to safety concerns. However, small novelties such as party poppers and sparklers are legal in all states.
In New Zealand fireworks cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18 (previously 14), and may only be sold for the four days leading up to and including November 5. However, fireworks are able to be used at any time of the year (i.e.: there is no time restriction on when fireworks can be used, even though there is a restriction on the sales time of fireworks). The types of fireworks available to the public are multi-shot "cakes", Roman candles, single shot shooters, ground and wall spinners, fountains, cones, sparklers, and various novelties, such as smoke bombs and pharaoh's serpents. sales of fireworks have become increasingly restricted in recent years. Skyrockets, and other fireworks where the firework itself flies, were banned in 1994. Firecrackers and Bangers were banned in 1993. As of 2007, sparklers may only be purchased no more than 50 at a time in packs with other fireworks. This is due to the popularity of sparkler bombs. 
In Chile fireworks are restricted for consumer use and can only be seen in professional shows. The prohibition came at the request of organizations dealing with burnt children, many of the accidents being caused by unsupervised use of fireworks.
- "Novelty Fireworks". Retrieved October 11, 2014.
- Citizens' Information
- Statutory Instrument 2004 No. 1836 The Fireworks Regulations 2004, United Kingdom.
- "Michigan HB 4293'11". Michigan House of Representatives. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- Guy Fawkes 2007 FAQ Archived 2008-10-21 at the Wayback Machine, New Zealand