US To Ban Lighters On Planes

February 28, 2005

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The US government will ban cigarette lighters on planes beginning in April but passengers can still carry common matches in carry-on bags for now, security officials said on Monday.

The Transportation Security Administration, responding to a congressional order, said passengers cannot carry butane, battery powered or other lighters on themselves or in carry-on bags after April 14.

"By creating a policy to add lighters to the prohibited items, we are closing a potential vulnerability in air travel security," said David Stone, administrator of the security agency.

Wooden matches that can be struck on a hard surface are already banned but passengers will still be allowed to pack up to four matchbooks inside carry-on luggage, security officials said.

Common butane lighters are considered a hazardous material by aviation safety regulators and are already banned from checked luggage.

While smoking is banned on all US domestic and international flights, passengers are permitted to smoke in many airport terminals, restaurants and lounges.

In legislation passed in December that overhauled US intelligence programs, Congress required the lighter ban be in place on aircraft and beyond airport security checkpoints by February 15.

Proponents said it was necessary to reduce the chance that someone could ignite a bomb or incendiary device on a commercial flight.

Dorgan says "shoebomber" Richard Reid may have succeeded in blowing up a passenger plane on a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001 had he used a lighter instead of common matches to set off explosives hidden in his shoe. Reid was sentenced to life in prison in 2003.

But concerns raised by airports about the potential impact on their smoking policies, airport-related businesses, and passengers' travel habits prompted the Bush administration to move more slowly on the lighter prohibition. The Transportation Security Administration is still considering a ban on matches.

(Reuters)