Cigar 101: How to Not Get Jacked By TSA – By Mike Holmes

Everyone likes to go on vacation, or maybe you travel for work a lot? Either way I see people post all over social media, traveling horror stories about how they got their $300 torch confiscated by TSA or how they had cigars and cutters taken from them at some point on their journey. If you rarely travel you might have some questions about how to fly with your cigars, cutters, and lighters. I want to take you through the fairly simple process that I hope will clear up any confusion you may have about traveling with your cigars and accessories. By the end of reading this you should be more knowledgeable on how to travel as a cigar enthusiast and hopefully you will not run into any issues along the way! 

Keep Everything On Your Person

One of the first sure fire ways to prevent loss while traveling is to carry everything with you in your carry- on bag! You will know exactly where everything is at all times and you can keep an eye on everything you are bringing with you. When you go through security you simply send your carry on bag through the scanner with your cigars, cutters and lighters all together in your travel humidor. Most cigar smokers use a Herf-A-Dor or Cigar Caddy travel case. Both companies make these cases in various sizes; small (5 count), medium(10-15 count) or large (30-50 count). They include with padding to protect your cigars, a humidification device, and provide spaces to store your cutter and lighter.

Another great option is to go to a hardware store and purchase a small gun case. It is essentially the same thing except the padding will not be specially cut to store cigars in rows, but it still works well to keep your cigars protected and can possibly be a little lighter on your wallet! Either way it is definitely best to keep your cigars with you to ensure their safety and to prevent your lighter or accessories from being taken by TSA during a random search when your luggage is away from you. Which leads me to my next point. 

Types Of Lighters Accepted For Air Travel

According to TSA’s official website, this is their policy on lighters: 

Carry On Bags: Yes – BIC only

Checked Bags: Yes (Special Instructions)

Disposable and Zippo lighters (without fuel) are allowed in checked bags. Lighters with fuel are prohibited in checked bags, unless they adhere to the Department of Transportation exemption, which allows up to two fueled lighters if properly enclosed in a DOT approved case.

Note that the policy  states that if you use a “DOT approved” case you can bring up to two lighters that are filled, in your checked baggage. The carrying cases for lighters and are airtight and look like a small chamber. Unfortunately, these were readily available online years ago, but have for the most part been discontinued. If you can find one it may be a way to keep your prized lighter from being confiscated, but I personally recommend flying with a BIC lighter and using it while traveling. They are small and very inexpensive – so they travel real well and get the job done!

You can not bring lighter fluid of any kind, so don’t try it, it will only cause problems.

You can also bring one book of safety (non-strike anywhere) matches in your carry on. Don’t confuse this with strike anywhere matches which are strictly forbidden in both carry on and checked bags.

Now lets talk about torch lighters. Just don’t try it. They will most likely be confiscated.

Cigar Cutters

Carry On Bags: Yes (Special Instructions)

Checked Bags: Yes

While cigar cutters are generally permitted, the TSA recommends that you pack them in your checked baggage. TSA officers have the discretion to prohibit any item through the screening checkpoint if they believe it poses a security threat.

Any sharp objects in checked bags should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors. Again, if you don’t want to risk delays and possible confiscation at the TSA checkpoint, just bring a cheap cutter that you are willing to loose. Just store them with your cigars and lighter in your travel humidor to keep them all together until you get to your destination! Lastly, don’t bring scissor cutters in your checked bag by any means.

How I Dodged A Bullet 

One time I went to a Herf in Nashville Tennessee that was organized by the “C2 Bomb Squadron” which is a sub crew in the Facebook group “C2”. I took the Greyhound bus from Florida and during my trip, hurricane Irma hit Florida and I was stuck in Nashville for a few extra days because the roads weren’t clear yet, and Greyhound wasn’t running until the roads were clear.

Long story short, I flew back to Florida as soon as the airports opened. I had my grenade torch with me and had no idea what to do, so I tried to drain it quickly before entering the Nashville airport and could not empty it in time. I stashed my torch in my checked bag, wrapped it up in my clothes and flew home. When I got home I checked my suitcase and my torch was still there! Unfortunately I realized the next day, that the pressure from being under the plane had ruined my grenade torch! When I tried to use it the fuel leaked out immediately and the lighter wouldn’t spark a flame.

The. Moral of the story is that a TSA approved Case would have worked wonders for me that day had I known I had to fly back home instead of taking the bus back. I knew I was taking a chance with putting the torch in my suitcase and I certainly lucked out because my torch wasn’t taken but I was still unaware of how flying would affect my torch. I definitely learned the hard way why TSA has the guidelines for flying with lighters and why it isn’t an unnecessary policy. 

Transporting Cuban Cigars Back Home

So you are coming home from Cuba and you want to bring home some Cuban cigars now that it is legal to transport Cuban cigars into the U.S. (this may change with new Trump Policies on Cuba). At this point, I am sure you are asking yourself “How?” Well the answer is simple, you are legally allowed to bring back around $800 worth of Cuban cigars  or around 100 cigars on your person for personal consumption.This amount is duty free.

Photo by Alexander Kunze on Unsplash

When you go through customs they may or may not ask you about cigars. If they do make sure to have documentation proving that you purchased them from an authorized seller so they don’t think you are trying to smuggle contraband into the country. The US Requlation on this states:

31 C.F.R. § 515.582 authorizes importations of goods produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs, as set forth on the State Department’s Section 515.582 List without a limitation on the value of the goods.  However, these goods are still subject to the applicable provisions of the HTSUS.  Imports by private individuals authorized under § 515.582 of the CACR are allowed an $800 exemption from customs duties in accordance with the HTSUS, if the goods are for personal use. 

I did not see any special guidelines on transporting Cuban cigars to the U.S.  but the easiest way to bring them home would be to keep them in their boxes and put them in your carry on bag for safe keeping. 

I have never traveled outside of the United States so I cannot personally attest but upon researching for this article this is the general consensus I got from people explaining how to bring Cubans into the U.S. so as long as you do not go over the legal amount of cigars you should  be fine and will get through customs normally as long as you follow the guidelines for how many cigars to bring and have documentation showing proof of purchase from an authorized seller then you will arrive home with no issues! 

In Closing

As you can see, flying with cigars and accessories isn’t rocket science, all it takes is a little planning and you can enjoy a great getaway while bringing your favorite cigars with you. Keep in mind that even if you are the best planner, in no way am I guaranteeing that you will have a great experience every time. Your experience may vary from airport to airport, as the TSA agents have wide room for interpretation of the rules. This article is just a way to give you helpful tips on traveling as a cigar enthusiast and hopefully will lessen the chance of your trip turning into a trip from hell!

5 thoughts on “Cigar 101: How to Not Get Jacked By TSA – By Mike Holmes

  • I travel with lighters in my ” other purse” (under my breast in my bra) i always pack my cutter…has worked for 10 years

  • I fly up to Massachusetts a few times a year and would purchase cigars when was there. I like the idea of a cigar caddy. Good article and good information, Thanks Mike keep up the good work

  • I’ve flown from KC to Vegas & Mexico a few times, & I put my cutter & torches in my shave kit, which is in my check bag. I wrap the torches in small plastic bags. Needless to say, the torches are always cheapies that I can live without. So far so good. Headed to Italy in a couple weeks, we’ll see how it goes! Cigars are always on my carry on!

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