After confiscating almost 12 million of them last year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has decided to allow butane lighters in carry-on luggage again. At the same time, mothers will be permitted to take pumped breast milk onboard even if they're not traveling with children.
The new changes are set to take effect on August 4 at security checkpoints across the country. According to the TSA, the U.S. is the only country in the world to ban lighters, and repealing the prohibition is "a common sense, risk-based security decision," which will allow inspectors to find more dangerous items such as bombs and other explosives. So-called "torch lighters," which maintain a constant stream of very hot fire, will continue to be banned. Breast milk will be considered "a medical necessity," meaning it must be declared at the checkpoint.
We can trace the history of this issue to December of 2001, when Richard Reid, the infamous "shoe bomber," used a lighter in a failed attempt to ignite an explosive device he was wearing. Travelers were immediately required to remove their footwear for screening, though it took until March 2005 for lighters to be banned.
Since 2001, when the TSA came into being, a pattern has emerged in which bans are implemented before being softened some time later. For example, after liquid explosives were found to be involved in a British terror plot, the TSA banned all liquids from carry-on luggage. Then, in September of last year, the 3-1-1 rule was introduced, allowing liquids but with more restrictive guidelines.
In general, I'm in favor of travelers having the freedom to bring essential, and not potentially dangerous, items onboard, and breast milk clearly falls into that category. However, as a non-smoker who does not want to be on an airplane if someone starts a fire, it's hard for me to be as sympathetic to the new lighter policy. I'm sure there are 12 million or so travelers out there who would disagree.