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January 2007

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     Now that the holiday season is over and your business or pleasure travel plans start to take shape, it's important to know the rules and regulations of the TSA concerning cigars and accessories. Most of this article was written by Roger Farnsworth, a member of Cigar Weekly Magazine. Our thanks to them for this information in a way that the average Joe can comprehend.

Cigar Travel

Cutters

     One of the major changes after 9/11 was the elimination of many sharp objects in carry on luggage. Small pocket knives, pointed scissors and even knitting needles and nail clippers were excluded; curiously, however, cigar cutters - as long as they can not be readily disassembled and the blade removed - are specifically mentioned in the TSA guidelines as permitted carry-on items.

     Small, innocuous cigar punches such as the ones made by Avo and Havana should also pass effortlessly through security. One notable exception to this rule is the "bullet" punch. Airline security personnel are justifiably very restrictive when it comes to firearms and ammunition.

     I accidentally left a single blade cigar cutter in my carry-on bag one time and had no trouble. My recommendation, though, would be to purchase one of those small cigar cases that contains a pockets for all of your accessories and your favorite smokes, and place it in your check luggage.

Lighters

     Current restrictions prohibit cigar and cigarette lighters from being carried on board airliners. This includes even lighters that have been emptied. The TSA screeners have been very thorough in enforcing this rule. Offending items will be confiscated.

     In most cases items that are prohibited as carry-on can be put in checked baggage, but there are exceptions. First of all, no matches of any kind are permitted in checked bags. None. Zip. Nada. Pressurized flammable gas and high altitude are a bad combination. No lighter refills are permitted on board an aircraft. No butane canisters or Ronson fuel, period.

     Lighters without fuel are permitted in checked baggage, but the screeners have to work quickly in order to meet departure deadlines and have been known to simply remove items that appear to be prohibited - they won't always take the time to carefully inspect a lighter to ensure that it's empty.

     If the lighter is a favorite of yours, leave it behind. It's better to be safe than sorry. Life best goes on if you just take the time to purchase in inexpensive lighter at your desitination. If you frequently visit the same location, keep a good lighter there, and one at home.

Cigars

     At the very least, your traveling cigars should be placed in a ziplock bag. While changes in temperatures will cause some fluctuation of environment within the bag, at least the moisture will remain trapped close to the sticks and won't completely evaporate. For longer flights, the added protection afforded by double bagging might be more appropriate.

     While wrapping the cigars in a plastic bag will protect them to a degree from environmental changes, it affords little defense against physical trauma. For additional protection, the use of a travel humidor specifically designed for air travel is recommended. In simple terms, this means a travel humidor that has an airtight seal and a pressure valve. Most leather-clad or simple aluminum travel humidors have neither of these important features and are designed mostly for local use.

     The inexpensive way to travel with cigars is to place them in a double plastic bag and place the bag in an aluminum travel humidor. The travel humidor will protect the sticks against damage and the bags will keep them from drying out.

     Finally, when traveling by air it pays to be both discreet and polite. Don't draw attention to yourself or your cigars while traveling, especially if you're an American traveling with Cuban cigars. While you're unlikely to run into problems, discretion affords an extra measure of insurance against unpleasant situations.

     And remember, the TSA personnel and airline employees are there first and foremost to make your trip as safe as possible. If you have a disagreement with any member of the staff, try to remain as polite and courteous as possible in order to avoid escalation. Calm and reasoned responses are much more likely to result in a satisfying experience than confrontation. Know the rules in advance and prepare accordingly and your travel is likely to be uneventful and pleasant.

 

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