Airline passengers will no longer be allowed to bring cigarette lighters on board commercial airplanes beginning April 14, ending a security loophole that lawmakers said could be exploited by terrorists seeking to light explosives in the cabin.
But the Transportation Security Administration acknowledged yesterday that another loophole remains: Passengers may currently bring up to four books of matches aboard an aircraft. TSA officials said they had hoped to ban both matches and lighters, but the White House Office of Management and Budget resisted the inclusion of matches, which was not specified in the recently passed law banning lighters.
An OMB spokesman said the TSA needs to complete a cost-benefit analysis of banning matches.
"If we move to add matches to the list, we will post the proposal for public comment," TSA spokesman Mark Hatfield said.
Until the ban goes into effect, TSA security screeners will inform passengers who carry lighters that they will no longer be allowed on airplanes in April. Even though lighters and matches are not easily detectable by X-ray machines and metal detectors, TSA security screeners will confiscate them if they find them inside a passenger's luggage.
The ban on lighters comes at the direction of Congress, which attached a measure to the intelligence bill signed into law last December prohibiting "butane" lighters.
Airport officials feared the ban would pose several problems, including whether smoking lounges in terminals could remain open. They also wondered how the TSA could impose the ban since many lighters would slip past screening machines.