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Lighters to be banned on airline flights

WASHINGTON—Airline passengers will have to ditch their lighters or lose them to airport security screeners when a new ban on lighters takes effect in April.

The ban reflects Congress' fear that lighters could be used to ignite bombs on planes or otherwise damage or destroy them. The Transportation Security Administration until now had banned all types of lighters, except for butane, which were limited to two per passenger.

TSA's new ruling extends the ban to all butane lighters, effective April 14.

Proponents of the ban, including Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., cited the case of convicted "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, who tried but failed to light explosives in his shoes with matches. Had Reid been using a lighter, he might have brought down the plane, Dorgan said. Reid was sentenced to life in prison in 2003.

The new ban is expected to streamline security procedures, because in the past screeners had to distinguish between butane lighters and types that were banned.

The Department of Transportation bans lighters in checked baggage, so passengers wanting to keep them have few options aside from returning to their cars to stow lighters or handing them off to non-fliers.

The U.S. Postal Service considers lighters to be hazardous material and will not mail them.

Passengers can continue to carry up to four books of matches, but that, too, is under reconsideration, said TSA spokeswoman Amy Von Walter.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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