US to allow cigarette lighters on airline flights

Starting 4 August, security officers at US airports will stop impounding common cigarette lighters, because authorities now think they are a distraction from the effort to find bombs and other major threats. But torch lighters - used for pipes and cigars — which have a much bigger and hotter flame, will still not be allowed in the passenger cabin.

Lighters are the most common item detained by airport security personnel; about 22,000 are impounded everyday. At one point, that number had gone up to 35,000! The US Congress, which initially asked for the ban, has permitted the change.

The 2005 prohibition came about because of an alleged attempt four years earlier by Briton Richard Reid to bring down an American Airlines jet with a shoe bomb. Now convicted and serving a life sentence in jail, Reid allegedly tried to light explosives hidden in his shoes using a matchbox! Ironically, though, the US has never banned carrying of matchboxes on flights.

Authorities say the latest decision is because security personnel need to focus more closely on bomb detection and other real threats. Earlier, the security agency had lifted the ban on small scissors, to make bomb detection the overall priority.