What is a "torch lighter"?

Airlines security says that I can take a butane lighter on board with me but not a torch lighter. What is the difference?

Typically, the pressure under which the fuel is kept. A torch lighter can generally produce a blue (2000° F) flame to a length beyond a couple of inches. A standard butane lighter will produce a red/yellow (600° F) flame to about an inch or an inch and a half. YMMV, but those are rough estimates.

If you really want to be kept off the plane (at minimum), try boarding with one of these. (The flame colors, here, are controlled by additives to the fuel, I believe, instead of flame temperature.)

Snort! Oh Geez!

I take it that a cheap Bic lighter will be okay?

If the rules say that a “butane lighter” is OK, then I would guess that the standard Bic would be fine. It probably wouldn’t hurt to phone ahead (or maybe a smoking, flying Doper will confirm that).

… getting high??

Funny, fezpp! “A smoking flying doper” does paint some nostalgic images in my mind.

Following Tomndeb’s lead, I’ve been looking at some of those torch lighters with weird flames. Bizarre stuff! I would get one when I come back from my trip, but I’ve promised myself to quit smoking again.

Smoking, flying doper here… I fly in and out of LAX all the time, and it has some of the most stringent security screening. Once they spent 20 minutes trying to find my itty bitty fingernail clippers at the bottom of my bag that they spotted on X-ray. What the hell they thought I could do with those, I have no idea.

Anyway, airport security has never looked twice at my Bic lighters, and that’s about all I ever carry. I’ve never seen anyone have problems with the Zippo type naptha lighters, either. Both produce a relatively cool flame compared to the “torch” lighters… which are also useful for lighting crack. (But the only crack I’ve ever had was between a pair of glutes…)

Anyway, what is odd is that the pack of cigarettes themselves will set off the metal detector. Apparently, that little bit of paper-backed foil that lines the package is enough to get you pulled over and wanded.

Then there was the time I tried to take a two-solenoid 2.5" gate valve through security in my briefcase. These puppies look just like a pair of detonators stuck into a steel block. Heh… that was very amusing.


I’ve seen two kinds of “torch lighters”. The first is the jet-engine looking kind mentioned before.

For the other, I’ve seen this done (disclaimer: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, AND ALL THAT IS HOLY, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME and if you do, DON’T BLAME ME.).

Find a lighter that has an adjustable flame. Remove the entire metal piece that surrounds the striker, flint and gas nozzle.

You should notice that the little plastic thing you moved to adjust the flame is attached to a plastic loop that encircles a white plastic gear-looking thing.

Move the little plastic knob over to where the highest flame setting would be, then pull it up until the little loop is free of the little gear. Now that it’s free, you can then move it over to where the lowest flame setting is, push it back onto the gear, and turn your lighter up EVEN MORE. If you move it up to the max setting, a flame six inches or longer isn’t uncommon. If you try that trick again, you might be able to get an even larger flame, but in my experience there comes a point where the butane is coming out too fast to ignite. Your mileage may vary. DON’T do this indoors, as you may wind up with a burning ball of plastic and butane on something expensive and/or flammable.

The color actually comes from a small deposit of material (see this link for color vs. material) on a wire that is held in the path of the flame. The heat causes some of the material to burn, and that colors the flame.

I’ve traveled quite a bit pre 9-11, and used to use a “torch” lighter as my primary means of lighting a smoke (any kind, save that crack discussed above). Most airports gave me no hard time about it, and if it was in my bag, I NEVER got a hard time with it. DC’s Regan National gave me the only trouble with the lighter when I put it into the screening basket, and wouldn’t let me take it on the plane. So I went back towards the ticket counter, put it in my briefcase, and went through again with no problems… probably not the best procedure, but I didn’t want to discard my $40 lighter, nor did I have time to find a post box to put it into to mail home to myself.

Looks like my cheap Bic (disguised in a Whiting and Davis sterling holder) will make it through security.

I’m trying to keep all metal off of my body, but my purse and carry-on are going to be loaded. I’m not even wearing an underwire bra for the first time in years. (I’ve been yearning to breath free anyway…)

Oops. I just realized there is metal on my glasses and even a bit of gold dental work in the back.

I must remember to leave my cattle prod at home.