When it comes to anything that can create an explosion or open flame, you always want to be very careful about bringing that type of item on a plane. Because lighters by their very nature fall into this category, it’s a good idea to get up to speed on the FAA/TSA requirements for flying with them.
In this article, I will break down all of the TSA rules regarding taking lighters through airport security and bringing them on an airplane.
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What are the TSA rules for bringing lighters on planes?
According to the FAA, when traveling on a commercial airline you can bring one lighter that uses a flammable gas (butane) or that uses a flammable liquid that is absorbed in a lining (Zippo-type of lighter).
You are allowed to bring disposable and Zippo lighters without fuel in carry-on bags or checked bags but there must be no traces of fuel or vapor inside the lighters.
(The FAA recommends that passengers pack empty lighters in checked baggage accompanied by a note explaining that they contain no fuel.)
Lighters that contain fuel are prohibited in checked bags unless they comply with the Department of Transportation exemption (more on that below).
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Bringing a lighter through airport security
When bringing your lighter through airport security, you must bring the lighter in your carry-on or on your person.
I’d recommend placing the lighter in a place that is easily retrievable and not stuffed in the bottom of your carry-on bag just in case you need to remove it.
You also don’t want to risk it getting busted or leaking.
Also, while you can bring empty lighters in your carry-on I would put them in your checked baggage to avoid getting slowed down through security. This is especially true if you have many empty lighters.
You can also bring your lighter “on your person.”
On your person just means that if the lighter is not in your bag, it needs to be in your pocket.
But when you go through security screening, you’ll most likely need to drop your lighter in one of the bins. After that, there should be no issue with storing the lighter in your pocket.
Note: If a carry-on bag is checked at the gate or at planeside, any lighter in the carry-on must be removed from the bag and kept with the passenger in the aircraft cabin.
Different types of lighters
The Homeland Security Department has made moves to ban lighters in airports in the past.
But for now, you are permitted to bring in various types of lighters so long as you comply with the restrictions mentioned above and below.
One quick tip I will offer.
Lighters are pretty cheap so sometimes it’s just a lot easier to purchase them at your destination rather than risk dealing with a TSA agent who may not be well-versed in the rules.
Disposable and Zippo lighters
The most common types of lighters are the disposable cigarette lighters (e.g., BIC lighters) and the Zippo lighters.
If you are planning on bringing a lighter through airport security your best bet is to bring something like this because airport security will be familiar with them and you should not run into issues.
Note that the FAA states only one lighter is allowed but TSA is silent on the issue on their website.
Just keep in mind that anytime you are bringing an item that is subject to regulations, you might get pulled aside and your item/bags might be serviced extra thoroughly.
Typically, this additional screening is pretty quick but in some rare cases it can drag out.
Related: TSA’s rules on marijuana
Arc Lighters, Plasma Lighters, Electronic Lighters, E-Lighters
TSA prohibits arc lighters, plasma lighters, electronic lighters and eLighters in checked baggage.
These are those modern/fancy looking lighters that often have USB charging capabilities. While they look pretty gnarly, these are not allowed to be brought on as a checked item.
If bringing these as a carry-on, TSA states: “Measures must be taken to prevent unintentional activation of the heating element while on board the aircraft.”
In other words, you may have to remove the battery from the lighter or place the lighter into a protective case.
In addition, be aware that each lithium ion battery must not exceed a Wh rating of 100 Wh (or for lithium metal batteries, a lithium content of 2 grams).
TSA will not allow you to charge these devices or the batteries on the aircraft.
Gun lighters can be highly problematic in an airport for a couple of reasons.
For one, some of these look like realistic firearms and bringing firearms through an airport has specific regulations that you have to comply with so that you don’t face stiff penalties.
Second, these are larger lighters that are prohibited in both carry on and checked baggage.
Bottom line: avoid bringing any lighter that looks like a gun or any other type of weapon (e.g., grenades).
Lithium battery powered lighters
Lithium battery powered lighters are lighters that depend on lithium batteries which are one of them many prohibited items for checked baggage.
However, lithium batteries can be brought on the plane as a carry-on so lithium battery powered lighters are allowed. See the restrictions above.
According to the TSA, torch lighters create a very thin, needle like flame that is a higher temperature and more intense than the flame from a traditional lighter. In fact, the temperature from these lighters can reach up to 2,500°F.
These ultra-hot lighters are often used for pipes and cigars and they maintain a consistent stream of air propelled fire regardless of the angle at which they are held.
Different types of torch lighters include jet lighters, blue-flame lighters, and cigar lighters. Other types of torch lighters include chef torches, micro torches, and utility torches.
Torch lighters are not allowed as a carry-on item or as a checked bag item.
As most of you are probably aware, lighter fluid is highly flammable and is not allowed as a carry-on or a checked bag item.
Matches & candles
If you are curious about matches, know that one book of safety (non-strike anywhere) matches are permitted as carry-on items, but all matches are prohibited in checked baggage.
The FAA mentions that “airline passengers may bring only one lighter or one book of matches into the aircraft cabin,” so you may have to choose between your lighter or your matches.
Also, here’s an overview of bringing candles on a plane.
Department of Transportation exemption for lighters
The Department of Transportation (DOT) exemption allows you to bring up to two of your disposable/Zippo lighters in checked baggage if they are properly enclosed in a DOT approved case.
These are airtight travel containers that reduce the risk involved with transporting lighters. Typically, they only hold one lighter but some hold two.
Some popular manufacturers have secured DOT permits for their lighter travel containers and these include manufacturers like: Colibri, Prometheus, and Zippo.
You can try to find these at specialty stores but you can also purchase them online.
Keep in mind that these special containers are the only way that you can carry lighters in checked baggage (unless the lighter contains no fuel).
Note: When shopping for a travel container for your lighter, make sure the container is marked with the DOT special permit number.
You might be thinking that you can just get around the TSA guidelines by shipping your items in the mail.
Unfortunately, it is against the law to ship lighters containing fuel or fuel residue. Lighter fluid and butane refills are also forbidden in the mail.
Once again, remember how cheap lighters can be and consider just purchasing them at your destination.
Vapes and e-cigarette’s
You might also be curious about transporting vapes and e-cigarettes through airport security and on planes. The rules for these varies and depends on the exact set up of your vape, so be sure to check out TSA Rules for Vapes and e-Cigarettes.
Other articles that you might find helpful include:
- Can You Bring Food on a Plane?
- TSA Checklist (Tips & PDF)
- TSA Toothpaste Rules & Size Limits
- TSA Approved Razor Rules
- TSA Knives Rules
- TSA Medication Rules for Flying on Planes
TSA Rules for lighters FAQ
No, you cannot bring a torch lighter on a plane as a carry-on or in a checked bag.
You can bring Zippo lighters, disposable lighters, and lighters with lithium ion batteries on as a carry-on.
You can bring up to two Zippo/disposable lighters in your checked baggage but only if you have stored in a DOT approved travel case.
The FAA states only one lighter is allowed in your carry-on.
Empty lighters are not regulated and thus you are allowed to bring them in your carry-on or checked bag. It’s recommended that you place these in your checked bag with a note declaring that the lighters are 100% empty.
As you can see, there are a lot of special rules for bringing lighters on airplanes. If you stick with just bringing one basic disposable lighter through airport security on your carry-on or on your person, you should not run into any issues.
But if you are trying to bring in more than that or are interested in transporting other types of lighters, you will start to run into trouble. So my advice would be to try to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to bringing along a lighter.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.