Banned Cigarette Lighters Suddenly Okay on Airplanes

July 20, 2007 · Print This Article · Email This Post

Cigarette Lighters Confiscated at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), hard at work protecting U.S. air travelers, has decided that it’s okay to bring cigarette lighters on flights as of 4 August. Not that you can smoke on airplanes. So…why would you need a cigarette lighter on an airplane?

According to TSA assistant secretary Kip Hawley, banning lighters wasted time and didn’t enhance security because bombs can be detonated with small batteries. (And also now with cigarette lighters.) Hawley said: “The number one threat for us is someone trying to bring bomb components through the security check point…We don’t want anything that distracts concentration from searching for that.”

The ban was imposed in April 2005 after “shoe bomber” Richard Reid tried unsuccessfully in 2001 to ignite a bomb in his shoe on a flight from Paris to Miami, with a match. Matches were never included in the ban. That would make too much sense.

The actual reason for the change of heart is that the TSA says it costs $4 million a year to dispose of the 22,000 lighters collected each day. Ah, that’s more like it — compromise safety for economic reasons. Why would it cost $4 million a year to throw out cigarette lighters? What about recycling the lighters via programs such as Second Harvest, etc.? Ever heard of the smokers from hell at Alcoholics Anonymous? What about levying a fine on people who show up at checkpoints with cigarette lighters? That would cut down on the number of cigarette lighters in a hurry, and generate a little income for other airport security measures.

If you fly, you’ll be happy to hear that among other allowed items are most screwdrivers, scissors with blades that are less than 4” in length, knitting needles and breast milk…even if you have no baby with you. Maybe you can use your disposable butane lighter (such as the now-legal BIC and Zippo lighters) to fend off a screwdriver-wielding lunatic, or someone running down the aisle with sharp scissors in hand. Relax, and enjoy the ride. The government knows what’s best for you.

Read more terrorism news.

Photo credit: AP

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