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TSA: Airplane lighter ban to take effect in April

Air Transportation
Transportation Security Administration
Department of Homeland Security

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Airline passengers, who already are prohibited from carrying torch-like butane lighters onto commercial aircraft, will be prohibited from carrying any type of lighter on planes and into secure areas of airports beginning April 14, the Transportation Security Administration announced Monday.

But the TSA is not prohibiting matches, at least not yet.

The TSA says it is considering banning matches, but will seek public comment before making any change.

The butane lighter ban was mandated by Congress as a provision in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which was signed into law by the president on December 17.

The TSA said that after evaluating the security threat, congressional intent and operational considerations, it determined that passengers should be prohibited from carrying any lighter on their person or in carry-on luggage in the secure areas of airports or on board an airplane.

The policy will be fully enforced beginning April 14.

"TSA is moving quickly to implement this provision passed by Congress," said retired Navy Rear Adm. David M. Stone, assistant secretary of homeland security for TSA. "By creating policy to add lighters to the prohibited items list we are closing a potential vulnerability in air travel security."

"Travelers are a valuable partner in the screening process," Stone said. "If they pack smart and avoid bringing lighters to the checkpoint, passengers can accelerate the screening process and allow us to focus on those individuals and items that may be a threat to their flight."

Included in the ban are absorbed-fuel (Zippo-type), electric/battery-powered and novelty lighters.

TSA will dispose of lighters brought to checkpoints. Passengers at some airports may be able to ship them via a private company for a fee, but TSA strongly urges passengers to thoroughly inspect their carry-on and checked baggage for banned items before going to the airport.

Lighters have long been prohibited from checked luggage. The Department of Transportation classifies lighters as hazardous materials.

The possible ban on matches is being delayed by a concern that it would be difficult to enforce, because matches are not easily detectable.

"There is a concern that we just simply do not create rules that inconvenience the public, but do not enhance our security capability. So that's what we're weighing," Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson told Congress last summer.

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