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Smoke: Smoke in the Air

Richard Carleton Hacker

“May i check your carry-on?” a screener at Los Angeles International Airport recently asked. Because the question is rhetorical when posed by an agent from the Transportation Security Administration, I looked on numbly while she selected my cigar case for inspection. As the agent pulled apart the leather container, three 50-ring Churchills fell out and hit the table, splitting the wrappers. My gasp indicated that she had done something wrong.

Although travelers should be grateful for the airlines’ tightened security, the latest procedures necessitate a new level of awareness for cigar smokers, especially when the rules governing carry-on items and stored luggage can be inconsistent from one airport and airline to another. For example, one friend complained about security agents confiscating his Zino cutter, and another boasted that he routinely clears inspections with his Colibri CEO combination lighter and cutter, which features a larger blade than the Zino. While passing through a security checkpoint at LAX, my butane lighter was confiscated. However, at O’Hare, an associate was allowed to keep his gold Dunhill Unique after a TSA agent emptied its butane contents.

Indeed, the policy regarding lighters seems to cause the most misunderstandings. The TSA prohibits passengers from transporting flammable liquids in carry-on or checked baggage. Yet, you can transport two disposable lighters or absorbed-liquid lighters and four books of safety matches in your carry-on luggage (but not in checked bags). Lighters with unabsorbed liquid fuel, refillable butane lighters, and strike-anywhere matches are not allowed at all.

Confusion is understandable. United Airlines’ list of more than 300 contraband items does not include butane lighters, and American Airlines’ policy states that cutters, butane lighters, and matches are forbidden in carry-ons, but all three are permitted in checked bags. Consequently, I check my DuPont Gatsby lighter and Zino cutter on long trips, but for jaunts that require only a carry-on, I pack an inexpensive cutter (which somehow never seems to warrant confiscation) and pick up a box of wooden matches when I reach my destination. Alas, sometimes we must sacrifice style for necessity.

Cigars, themselves, are not in danger of being confiscated for security reasons, but some precaution is necessary to guarantee their safe arrival. Before purchasing cigars at overseas tobacco stores or duty-free shops, be sure that they are properly humidified—the drier they are, the more prone they are to cracking. Placing them in a sealable plastic bag with a small Credo or Paradigm humidifier will further protect your smokes from the ravages of pressurization.

A travel humidor, though, is the best option, and Zero Halliburton makes two of the finest. The Ambassador ($500) holds 30 cigars, and the Diplomat ($300) has a capacity of 10 cigars. Both are available exclusively from Cigar Classics. These aluminum cases feature lockable hinges, Paradigm humidifiers, and tight O-ring seals. Because of the dramatic changes in temperature and pressurization in the luggage compartments, I pack my humidor in my carry-on. So far, its contents have survived every trip—and every security inspection.

Cigar Classics, 800.371.3954, www.cigarclassics.com

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