It’s crazy to think that Enola Gaye has single-handedly spawned a genre of pyrotechnics that is now visually mainstream and global. Is it legal? Should it be legal? Of course it should, and for the most part, it is… By that we mean it is in the countries in which we have sought approval, that’s not to say that it’s been easy, hell no. These are still a type of pyrotechnics that doesn’t fit into a recognised category yet. It’s a relatively new genre, so that’s why we get asked so many times “Are smoke bombs legal?”.
The birth of the Enola Gaye smoke grenade
Enola Gaye is now mainstream. It feels like everywhere you look there are colourful clouds featuring in adverts for products or enhancing music videos for pop stars.
We didn’t start out making smoke bombs for video and film, in fact, it was much more grassroots. They were developed for our own paintball fields and we never actually considered selling them. You see that’s where we started, running paintball fields. These became wildly successful and were fully booked every weekend. Our mission was to make the player experience better and more realistic, rather than trying to cram in as many customers as possible.
Enola Gaye’s first product idea was an exploding papier-mâché paint grenade that was dreamt up by one of the old directors. It was developed at a small pyrotechnic factory in the north of England. During the development, the smoke grenade was given life as a possible addition to the paint grenade. The paint grenade quickly became the bridesmaid to the smoke grenade, which gave a stunning visual effect of coloured smoke and far outsold our original product.
The question of “Are smoke bombs legal?” was never really asked. It’s a pyrotechnic and pyrotechnics are around us in everyday life – why shouldn’t they be legal? The confusion really comes when someone assumes it’s a firework, which is legal. Fireworks have their own different set of regulations and restrictions which have been constructed over decades. All fireworks are pyrotechnics, but not all pyrotechnics are fireworks.
We had stumbled onto something new. Something that was set to change our focus from paintball fields to the business of pyrotechnics. Smoke grenade sales at our paintball venues increased, we were selling them quicker than we could make them and to make things more complicated our competitors wanted to buy products too.
Smoke bombs for the mass market
Fast forward a few years…Enola Gaye moved its production to China, waved goodbye to its paintball fields and then broke away as an independent company.
Our pyrotechnics aren’t fireworks and we don’t want to be governed by those restrictions. All fireworks and pyrotechnics share many similarities, such as transport, storage regulations and they all burn & explode. However, usage varies from device to device and we believe we have brought something new to the table. Something that has raised eyebrows, a pyrotechnic that can be held in the hand or thrown towards other people.
Explaining this to someone who only vaguely understands pyrotechnic regulations and is in a position of power, can be challenging. It is sometimes easier to just say “No, they are not legal”, as it’s the easiest route and not everyone likes to challenge the norm.
It seems crazy to think that unlike fireworks, all pyro in the UK was unregulated (no CE mark, meaning no quality control) prior to July 2017. The effects and all other attributes of the products were self-regulated. This may not be totally crazy though since most things start off self-regulated until they grow to a size and popularity requiring regulation.
When governments look to put standards in place, they draft in a mix of industry experts and government officials to agree on a draft set of standards that works for everyone. The result is an industry that protects the consumer and gives the manufactures a clear set of rules to work and adhere to.
July 2017 was the cut-off date when any pyrotechnics without CE certification had to be sold. From that point forward all products must comply with CE regulations or be removed from sale. If it is already in the hands of the consumer with no onward selling, then this is still acceptable.
Work on the draft framework, that all products would need to adhere too commenced in 2010. Enola Gaye embedded themselves in this process. We had two experts in two different working groups, ensuring that our type of pyrotechnics was included in the standard. It was imperative that the other European member states understood this new breed of pyrotechnics that we had produced.
When we first arrived and explained the basis of our products, there were a few dropped jaws. Fast forward five years and with many obstacles overcome, our genre of pyrotechnics are now the fastest growing classification of pyrotechnic type globally, excluding airbags in motor vehicles.
So, are smoke bombs legal?
Yes, they are. Can you use it anywhere? No, you can’t. Are kitchen knives legal in the UK? Yes, they are. Can you openly carry one on the high street? Of course, you can’t. Can you carry a kitchen knife in a bag in the high street (still in its packaging)? No problem. What about a big sharp knife in your backpack with no packaging?… Well, that’s a whole different deal.
Common sense prevails in all circumstances, it’s important to use the intelligence bestowed upon us to make our way through life and not ‘drop the ball’. If you’re buying a large knife to take home to chop carrots, then you should not to tear the packaging off in the middle of the high street, if you choose to do this, it will nearly always lead to disappointment.
Kitchen knives and smoke grenades are quite similar in this example. Don’t scare the general public with them, use them in the privacy of your own environment, treat them with respect and never take them to a football match.
It’s not illegal to buy them, it’s not illegal to use them, provided you’re over 18, you can pull that pin. Just use them on your own land or seek permission. If you cause panic or a disturbance then you most certainly will be breaking a law, so you must use discretion. If you use common sense and follow the instructions provided with the product, your experience will be so much better.
We’ve sought approvals all over Europe, we have permission across the USA and in Canada and of course in the UK. There are some restrictions across our permitted territories but that is usually down to how they are sold, especially with some of our bigger products. For example, our biggest smoke grenade the CM75 requires a pyrotechnic license in the USA, but not in Europe. The most frequently asked questions are usually directed at our most popular product the WP40 which has few if any restrictions on sale.
We have strict controls over our dealers and ‘not selling to idiots’ is carved in stone within our terms. But like we said sometimes idiots find a way. Our work goes on…
For more information on which smoke grenades or any of our other pyrotechnics are available to you of to our product pages or ask us direct.