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Lighters banned
on U.S. airliners

Smoking between flights is about to get a little more difficult.

Starting next month, the Homeland Security Department is banning all cigarette lighters beyond airport checkpoints.

The new prohibition takes effect Feb. 15, but don’t be surprised if you get stopped before then, say Transportation Security Administration officials.

The ban was mandated by Congress in the massive and controversial Intelligence Reform Bill – a gigantic piece of legislation not read by a single member of the House or Senate before it was passed last month and signed into law by President Bush.

For smokers, the news could get even worse. The TSA is also considering banning matches on flights. No decision has been made, according to one TSA official who spoke on condition of anonymity. But if a ban is enacted, it isn’t clear how screeners would detect matches, short of a time-consuming physical search.

Some question how effectively a ban on lighters, and particularly on matches, could be implemented.

“In some cases it may be difficult to enforce,” said David Stempler, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Air Travelers Association. “Many won’t show up on X-rays.”

Some airports – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta and Denver, for example – have smoking lounges or areas that could be equipped with lighters similar to car lighters, Stempler said.

But more likely is that airport areas beyond the security checkpoints will become de facto non-smoking zones, officials said. Some airports, including Dallas/Fort Worth, ban smoking everywhere inside the terminals.