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Butane lighters to be banned from airline flights

/ Source: The Associated Press

Passengers already are barred from smoking on commercial flights. Now they won’t be allowed to bring their butane lighters on board either.

As part of the intelligence reform bill passed Wednesday, Congress added the lighters to the long list of items, including scissors, pen knives and box cutters, that passengers are barred from carrying on to planes. The ban does not apply to checked luggage.

Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota had pushed for the change for more than a year after learning the Transportation Security Administration allowed them on planes.

“When I found out that they had explicitly, in their rule, said you could take two butane lighters and four books of matches on board, I thought, ’What have they been drinking?”’ Dorgan said. Matches still are allowed.

Dorgan cited FBI reports that would-be “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid would have been able to ignite his explosive and blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner three years ago if he’d brought a butane lighter with him.

Wyden and Dorgan were so persistent in their campaign against the incendiary devices that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., joked earlier this year that he never thought butane lighters would get so much attention.

“This is probably not the biggest thing in the world,” Dorgan said. “But it’s one of those areas where a big government agency couldn’t develop a little bit of common sense about something so obvious.”

The ban takes effect 60 days after President Bush signs the intelligence reform bill into law.