Pardon me, got a light?

Tracy Stewart, March 10, 2011
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q. I have a friend that has traveled 4 times by plane in the last year and has had a lighter (that she forgot about) in her cigarette case and was never stopped or searched by security. We on the other hand had two jars of $6.99 mustard that they confiscated. Were they afraid we were going to blow up the plane with our mustard? I would think a lighter would be of greater concern. What's with that?????

    A. As odd as it may sound, it's true. According to the TSA, "lighters no longer pose a significant threat," despite the fact that people can -you know- use them to set fire to things. In any case, the TSA decided to lift the ban on lighters back in 2007. And the reason makes actual sense:

    Lifting the lighter ban is consistent with TSA's risk-based approach to aviation security. First and foremost, lighters no longer pose a significant threat. Freeing security officers up from fishing for 22,000 lighters every day (the current number surrendered daily across the country) enables them to focus more on finding explosives, using behavior recognition, conducting random screening procedures and other measures that increase complexity in the system, deterring terrorists. The U.S. is the only country in the world to ban lighters – all other nations, including Israel and the U.K., do not.

    Torch lighters, however, are still a major no-no. So at least there's that. But yes, we're with you on the mustard thing. We'd feel much more at ease if we were to catch our seatmate spreading Grey Poupon on the soles of his shoes rather than holding a lit Zippo to them. Thanks a lot, Richard Reid.

    But anything to keep us all safe, right? You can read more on the TSA restrictions regarding lighters, electronics, and breast milk here.