Lighters prohibited on planes

Ban takes effect today

devices no longer allowed in cabins

April 14, 2005|By Michael Hoffman | Michael Hoffman,SUN STAFF

Danny Jacobs, already an uneasy flyer, has one more thing on his mind when he travels by air - finding a match to light a cigarette when he finally gets off a flight.

Beginning today, Jacobs and millions of other air travelers who smoke will have to contend with a new federal ban on carrying lighters onto airplanes. For Jacobs, it means finding a match rather than using his orange Bic lighter.

While travelers will still be permitted to carry matches on board, they will have to hand over all types of lighters, including butane, torch light and fuel soaking, at security checkpoints. Lighters and matches already have been banned from checked baggage.

"It's kind of a nuisance because it's another thing to think about, and I've had this smoke on my mind the whole flight since flying gives me the jitters," said Jacobs, a pack-a-day smoker who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and was making connections yesterday at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The ban puts lighters in the same forbidden category as items such as pen knives and nail clippers, and is part of federal legislation passed last year to improve aviation security. However, the Transportation Security Administration waited until today to enforce the rule to give the public sufficient time to adjust.

Banning lighters was, in part, a reaction to Richard Reid's failed attempt to set off explosive devices in his shoes using matches on a trans-Atlantic flight in 2002.

"This is one more tool in our tool box to tighten the gantlet in airport security," said the TSA's eastern field director, Lauren Stover.

Many smokers wondered yesterday why matches are still permitted. Stover pointed out that matches are also under consideration for the prohibited list at security checkpoints.

Sitting in O'Brien's Grille & Pub inside BWI smoking a cigarette during her layover, Lori Pickering was outraged by what she believes is the government's latest step toward making smokers feel like second-class citizens.

"How much of a risk do they think it is?" said Pickering, of Jacksonville, Fla. "Security is essential in the airports, but sometimes they go too far."

Taking a drag on her cigarette outside the door of the baggage claim area, Alyssa Fritz, of Altoona, Pa., was less bothered by the ban.

"I don't care," Fritz said. "All I have to do is get some matches."

The ban will have a significant effect on lighter manufacturers, said David Baker, general counsel of the Lighter Association, Inc., a trade group that represents the interests of companies such as Zippo Manufacturing Co. and Bic.

"I think lighter companies, particularly of more expensive, luxury lighters like Zippo and Calico, will see cuts in their sales," he said.

Baker said that traveling smokers will find it easier to part with an inexpensive lighter if they have to, and conversely, fewer will be likely to invest in a more expensive lighter if they can't fly with it. Makers of refillable lighters are expecting a drop in sales of up to 33 percent, he said.

Recognizing safety concerns associated with bringing a lighter into a plane's cabin, the lighter industry is lobbying to rescind the ban on lighters in checked luggage, Baker said. The industry wants one lighter permitted per checked bag.

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