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Cigar 101: Airline Travel Guide for the Cigar Smoker 20


Is that a Cuban in your pocket or are you just excited to be back in America?

Air travel may be much safer these days, but it’s a heck of a lot more confusing. It seems like the list of prohibited items changes every day, and arbitrary enforcement breeds doubt over what to bring and what to leave at home.

Cigar smokers are particularly challenged by airline security, as the accessories of our passion are full of sharpened blades and intense flames — clearly the very type of equipment the TSA is trying to keep out of the air.

While this guide is by no means definitive, we’ve researched multiple sources for the most up-to-date appraisal of the do’s and dont’s of airline travel for the stogie lover. First, the good news:

CIGAR ACCESSORIES YOU CAN BRING ON AN AIRPLANE:

Cigar Cutters – Can I bring my cigar cutter on a plane? The answer is yes! The majority of cigar cutters will make it through airport security. The TSA specifically permits scissors with blades shorter than four inches, so scissor-style cutters are almost guaranteed to make it, even as a carry-on. I’ve flown three times in the last year and each time nobody blinked an eye at the Xikar MTX Scissors attached to my key chain.

A punch cutter or V-cutter is also a safe bet, as it doesn’t fall under any of the ‘sharp objects’ categories prohibited by the TSA. The only style of cutter that might cause a red flag is a guillotine-style. Because it’s the most common, most security personnel will recognize it for what it is. Overzealous TSA employees may confiscate guillotine cutters as violating the ‘razor-type blades’ restriction, though even those are permitted in checked luggage, which would be your best bet with this type of cutter.

Non-Cuban Cigars – Sure, you can bring ‘em, but be prepared for the possibility of being questioned on your way back to America. Half of the time no one will even look at the cigars. On occasion, though, a poorly trained security official might try to confiscate them, not realizing the difference between a Cuban and a Dominican/Nicaraguan/Honduran cigar.

Some Lighters – Before we tell you what will probably fly, let’s just say that enforcement of lighter rules is notoriously arbitrary at the airport. As of August 4, 2007 you can take a Bic-style lighter on the plane — just remember they have to be carry-on if they have fuel in them. But we’re cigar smokers, what about our lighters? If it’s a non-torch, then technically the same rules that apply to ‘common lighters’ apply to yours. If it is, as most cigar lighters are, a “torch lighter”… well…

CIGAR ACCESSORIES YOU CAN’T BRING ON AN AIRPLANE:

Torch Lighters – Cigar lighters with torch flames are very specifically banned. The only way you’re getting it on the plane is if they miss it during screening. But remember, bringing a banned travel item to the security line is illegal and punishable by law, even if you do it by accident. Unless you want to donate your torch lighter to a TSA employee, leave it at home.

Butane – Are you kidding? No way is butane getting on a plane. Since you can’t bring your torch lighter, its pointless anyway.

Stick Matches – You’re permitted one book of paper matches, but that’s it. Any strike-anywhere or stick-type matches are going to be confiscated. Not a big loss, but it could lead to a more thorough search, so definitely leave your matches at home.

Cuban Cigars – If all Cubans were confiscated at the border, there would probably be an American uprising to end the Cuban embargo. Fact is, tons of Cubans make it into the states every year. Occassionally the authorities will nab a big importer and lock them up, but most of the time they’re just skimming Cubans from tourists in the airport for their own private collections! I’ve never tried to smuggle a Cuban, but I know plenty who have and succeeded. There are many stories of cigar smokers swapping Cuban bands with non-Cuban bands, transporting nudes in a non-Cuban box, or even making no effort to disguise the cigars at all and being let through security.

That being said, the TSA loves to confiscate stuff. Technically you can be jailed and fined up to $250,000 for smuggling Cubans, but we’ve never heard of anyone getting fined or locked up unless they’re importing in volume. Though we would never advise you to do anything illegal, our research shows that bringing Cuban cigars into the U.S. will often, though by no means always result in confiscation.

Humidification Solution / Propylene Glycol / Distilled Water – Any bottle of liquid is subject to seizure. Don’t expect it to make it on the plane.

Hand Grenades – What cigar aficionado would be caught without his hand grenade? Sorry, smokers, they’re banned. The TSA was so concerned the even posted a blog on their website titled “Can I Take my Hand Grenade on the Plane?”


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20 thoughts on “Cigar 101: Airline Travel Guide for the Cigar Smoker

  • duane a eaton
    Thank you for this article i am going to Florida this year to see my daughter and new i could not take my torch lighter but was not sure about taking my cigar cutter now i know that i can at least take it. Thanks again for this information.
  • Snes
    Just thought I'd leave a comment to let people know, TSA is very subjective, just a couple months ago I had them take my punch cutter and v cutter coming home from san fran, while flying to san fran they didn't care what so ever. I would advise you just leave'em at home and buy a 3 buck throw away at your destination, it'll get the job done for at least a couple cigars...
  • Ed
    It's interesting that you cannot take a torch lighter when you fly. If it is placed in a TSA approved container AND placed in checked baggage what is the risk? It is not accessible to the passenger and should not pose any more hazzard than a bic ligher. I've written to TSA about this for a clarification. I will let you know when (if) I receive a response.
  • Ed
    Followup to my previous submission. I heard back from the TSA regarding torch lighters. All they would do is send me the printed prohibition on torch lighters. They would not explain why they are banned in checked luggage if placed in an approved case. So there you have it...our government at work.
  • NJ Navy Chief
    Here is my .02 I have traveled quite a few times with my cigars and paraphernalia. My torches always make it through. I pack them in my checked luggage usually stuffed in my shoes. I don't take my best lighter, but a torch none the less. My punch is on the lighter and also a cheapie on my key ring, sti no issues. I pack my cutter in my luggage too. And as always I carry on my cigars in my 40 count traveldor. I even take Drymistat tubes in my checked luggage. Maybe I have been lucky.Watch next time everything will get confiscated! Go figure.
  • Colinbass
    If you use a yellow Colibri Tranzpack or the smaller Zippo-sized Cargo Case/Otter Box, you may very well have no problem checking butane lighters. I'm not sure if either of these cases are still being made, but I have one of each and have checked torch lighters in both in the same suitcase MANY times and never lost either. The Colibri is a 6-inch long capsule that screws together at the middle; there is foam inside with a generic cutout. The Zippo is a smaller hinged rectangular box (5"x3"x.5") with a clear lid and a Zippo-shaped cutout and is particularly useful for use with the Z-plus torch insert put into a Zippo housing. Both cases have the following printed clearly on them: "Lighter in this packaging conforms to DOT-SP 14327 and may be transported in checked baggage by domestic passenger aircraft," except the Zippo case instead lists DOT-SP 14194. So apparently there are at least TWO Dept. of Transportation Special Provisions written to allow exactly this type of item to be carried in these approved containers. I've seen evidence of TSA having searched my baggage but never lost any torch in several years of occasional flying. I seriously doubt any TSA agent has pulled out a DOT Regulation book and looked up either of these SPs. As "Ed" says, the lighter isn't accessible to passengers during the flight, so it only makes sense. I hope this helps and if any of you are interested, I'd check into one or both of these items. If either or both are discontinued, they may still be found on eBay or amazon.com, but nothing is guaranteed with TSA regs these days, so one day one of mine may be confiscated.
  • Tim
    So I have a question, if anyone still looks at this. I am traveling from Jax, FL to Vegas at the end of June. I am planning on bringing about 10-15 cigars with me in a Xicar 15 ct travel case. Any suggestions for how to bring it? Carry-on? Packed? I also have a 2 flame Xicar torch with punch in the bottom. Thoughts on this one?
  • Holly
    Hi Tim - not sure if you will be notified about me responding to your post, but I am finding myself in a very similar situation right now wondering how your trip went! I bought my father a very nice expensive xicar cigar case, 3 cigars, and a xicar torch lighter for a birthday/retirement gift. I'm flying to FL from PA tomorrow on Delta and have been on the phone with multiple people and heard multiple rules....should I empty the butane from the lighter and stuff it in my checked bag hoping it won't be a problem? (What if they do find it, would they throw it away or contact me for shipping options??) Or should I keep it on me, empty of course, and try my luck at the carry-on scan area? I have it engraved and everything! Really want to bring it with me, and will not allow it to be thrown away! Any advice anyone?? Thank you!
  • Joao Carlos
    I usually pack my cigars, humidifier packs (boveda/gel pillow stile) and a cutter inside a cigar caddy travel case (very sturdy, otterbox/pelican/xikar like) and put in my checked bag. As for the lighter I empty all fluid/butane out and put it in the container. Then I just buy a butane can when I arrive and recharge it. If its just a few days and I wont be smoking many cigars or I am not in the mood to spend $3~5 in a butane can then I let my torch at home and get along with a bic lighter instead, but I always choose option #1 and it works well for me. As a pilot myself I do not understand the rationale of allowing bic lighters and matches inside the cabin but not a small torch lighter (with fluid) checked inside a safe container. Instead it has to be empty because you can travel with butane, even if its less than a fart in quantity.
  • Joe Lopez
    Hey I got a question so in a few months I'm going to a trip to mexico. And i want To take a few cigars (not cubans)and I don't Know the regulations in there and I'm worry Probably they take them and how to bring Them??? I should buy a box or any other suggestions?? Please
  • Jason Post author
    Hi Joe, thanks for reading. From what I understand you can bring cigars into Mexico, though there may be a limit on the quantity and if you exceed that limit you may be required to pay certain duties or fees. Everything I've read indicates that a box of 25 cigars or so should be fine. I would check with customs to be on the safe side before you stock up.
  • Russell
    Hi, I'm travelling on a short trip to Indiana. After reading this string, I'm not planning on taking my lighter or butane. I figure I'll take a strip of cedar and light a cigar that way. (old school) But my question is about the cutter. I have one of these Colibri-style cutters where the blades are only about one inch and they're inside the circle, so no blade is ever exposed. Any thoughts on this?
  • Jason Post author
    Hi Russell, as stated in the article, a scissor-style cutter like you described should be no problem. TSA guidelines state: "Scissors - metal with pointed tips and blades shorter than 4 inches are allowed, but blades longer than 4 inches are prohibited." I'm pretty sure that the Colibri cutter would fall under this category. Thanks for reading!
  • Tony S
    Flying to Ireland and Germany next month and want to bring about 20 cigars with me. Any thoughts on what issues I may encounter with TSA or Customs? I have no intentions of bringing any back. Any input would be appreciated.
  • Jen
    Hi Tony, I can't imagine them giving you too much of a problem on your way in, however there may be a limit on how many cigars you can bring so I would check with TSA on that. Also, some security officers may flag your cigars and make sure they aren't Cuban, just a precaution they would have to take on their end. Here is TSA's website so you can get details from them: http://www.tsa.gov/
  • Jess
    Hi All....I'm flying in a few days and have a box of 40 cigars that I'd like to take with me as a gift for the person I am going to see. Will I run into any issues if I carry them on? They aren't Cuban and I'm not flying out of the country.....
  • Shb
    I was wondering if anyone could help me on this one: I am flying from Florida to Pennsylvania, so I am not crossing any international borders or anything. Would I run into any trouble taking a box of Romeo y Juliettas back to PA in my carry-on? What cigars, if any, would be confiscated?
  • Roger
    As long as they are non-cuban cigars. There should be zero worries. There are no duties or customs within the United States. They however might frown / tackle and arrest if you are having one during the flight :)
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