• United States



by Jon Surmacz

Is Flame-Free the Only Way To Go for Air Safety?

Feb 15, 20052 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been directed by Congress to ban cigarette lighters and matches aboard commercial airplanes. The reasoning is sensible: Open flames are dangerous to passengers and crew in the hands of someone intent on causing destruction (proponents of the measure quickly cite the case of shoe bomber Richard Reid). However, the TSA announced this week that airports will not be ready to enforce this rule by Feb. 15 as mandated in legislation passed in December. Instead, the TSA says the ban will begin next month, because the agency has yet to figure out exactly how it will keep lighters and matches off planes.

Currently, passengers are permitted up to two lighters (including disposables) or four books of safety matches in a carry-on bag. Such items are not permitted in checked luggage. Strike anywhere matches are not permitted period. (See the TSA’s tips for air travelers.)

Most lighters contain enough metal components to be picked up by metal detectors, so those likely won’t present much of a challenge. But matchbooks are often metal-free. How can airport screeners detect them? Random pocket searching of passengers seems like the only reasonable alternative.

There are other things to consider. Should lighters also be banned from store shelves in airports? What about smoking lounges? Will they disappear?

The TSA is hoping that a couple more weeks of planning will help it fine tune a strategy for keeping lighters and matchbooks off airplanes and craft a public-awareness campaign to alert passengers of the new rules. What do you think?

Can the TSA really keep matches off planes? What’s the best way to detect something seemingly undetectable and as common as a matchbook?