In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about bringing cigarettes or tobacco through TSA security.
You will also learn about the restrictions you will face when flying internationally with tobacco products.
Compared to lighters, TSA’s rules about bringing cigarettes on a plane are more lenient.
That’s because TSA doesn’t consider cigarettes or tobacco products to be security threats.
However, you are not allowed to smoke inside the plane as was common in the past; those days are long gone.
As a rule, you can bring cigarettes and tobacco on a plane in either your carry-on or checked luggage.
It doesn’t matter whether the cigarettes are hand-rolled or not; neither does the type of tobacco products you bring.
Any products like pipe tobacco or chewing tobacco are allowed.
As a side note, I wrote an article about bringing lighters on a plane which you can find here.
Be careful, though, not to bring Moke with you (Moke is a term for a mix of marijuana and tobacco that is getting popular nowadays).
How many cigarettes or packs can you take on a plane?
TSA does not specify the maximum amount of cigarettes or quantity of tobacco that you can bring with you.
When asked about this on their Twitter account, TSA answered that there is no quantity limitation or special packing requirements for cigarettes.
This means that if you want, you can pack solely tobacco products – as much as you can carry – and shouldn’t have any issues at the security screening.
However, being loaded down with cigarettes might raise some eyebrows from the security agents, and from time to time, you should expect to undergo an enhanced security screening.
One way to speed up the process is to pack the tobacco products with the tax receipts when possible.
This will reassure the TSA agents that you are not trying to hide other items in the tobacco products, making your life a lot easier.
Rules are different when you fly into the U.S. from Samoa, Guam, the Mariana Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands. “For arrivals from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam or American Samoa: 1,000 cigarettes, not more than 200 of which may be acquired elsewhere than in these islands.” source.
I can’t entirely agree with this law because all the above locations are territories of the United States of America, and most of them don’t even require a passport to visit.
If you don’t want to run into any problems when bringing tobacco products from the above locations or when flying internationally, then I suggest not going above the maximum limits.
International flights: Rules for tobacco
There are two situations:
- When you fly outside the United States
When you fly outside the United States, the rules you will have to obey differ from country to country, depending on where you travel.
However, more than 80% of countries have a limit of 200 cigars or the equivalent quantity of tobacco product you can bring into their country.
My advice is to always check the local laws before departure to an international location.
Some countries even ban tobacco products altogether. You will be forced to pay a hefty fine in some places, and your cigars will be taken from you.
2. When you fly into the United States
At least the rule is clear in this case.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a legal adult may bring up to 200 cigarettes (2 cartons, 20 packs) and 100 cigars for personal use.
However, frequent travelers say they usually bring an extra carton(10 packs) that they store separately(checked luggage), and nobody forces them to pay duty-free taxes.
Just don’t go overboard with this tactic trying to pack more.
Note: Flavored cigars are not allowed, so please don’t even try to bring them with you.
Can you bring cigarettes on a plane if you’re under 18 or 21?
This situation is somewhat funny because it is illegal to sell cigarettes to minors in most states, but a minor bringing them on the plane should not present an issue.
That’s because TSA agents don’t care if you are underage; their only concern is flight safety.
Nevertheless, if you want to be sure that a stubborn security agent won’t seize your tobacco products, then it’s better to bring them in your checked luggage and not in your carry-on.
At the airport screening, they do not correlate suitcases with the passenger’s age.
Your luggage will blend in with everyone else’s and will be treated as such.
Do cigarettes show up on the airport scanner?
Unfortunately, yes, the x-ray scanner shows cigarettes and classifies them as organic products.
If you have them on you, then the Terahertz scanner will only show that something is concealed under clothes, but the operator will not be able to tell what exactly it is.
However, the next step is being subjected to a manual inspection.
Practically speaking, as long as you are not flying to North Korea, there is no need to conceal your cigarettes unless tobacco isn’t the main ingredient.
Can you bring e-cigarettes or vaping devices on the plane?
Because e-cigarettes and vaping devices contain a power source to heat the vaping fluid, the rules enforced by the TSA are more strict than those for tobacco products.
Now to answer your question:
You can bring e-cigarettes and vaping devices on your person or carry-on, but you can’t bring them in your checked luggage.
Batteries for e-cigarettes or vaping devices are also not allowed in the checked luggage.
Frequent flyers recommend placing your vaping devices in a separate bin when going through security screening because on occasion, having it in your carry-on might trigger a bag check.
Remember that you are not allowed to vape on the plane, as the FAA rules consider it the same as smoking.
Trying to vape in the airplane bathroom will also not work because the smoke detector will quickly pick up the smoke.
Can you take e-cigarette liquid on a plane?
Yes, you can, but the TSA 3-1-1 liquid rule applies. If you don’t know what the 3-1-1 rules are, you can learn more about it here.
Remember to leave some headspace in the bottle because of the cabin pressure. You don’t want your container to leak.
Something to consider is that storing “E-Liquids” in plastic containers for long periods will reduce the flavor of the liquid, especially the ones made with natural ingredients.
Once you land, I recommend switching the “vape juice” from plastic containers to glass ones.
Can you bring cigarettes or vapes on a plane to Mexico? How many?
Yes, you can bring cigarettes when flying to Mexico, but there is a limit.
A person can bring up to 200 cigarettes, 25 cigars, or 200g of tobacco into Mexico.
This limit is per passenger so if you are traveling in a group and want to bring more cigarettes, then distribute them between passengers.
Mexico law also says that only adults can bring cigarettes or tobacco into the country.
So you or members of your group must be at least 18 years old to bring tobacco products.
If, for whatever reason, you exceed the limitation that Mexican law imposes, then thankfully, your exceeding tobacco products will not be confiscated, but you will be forced to pay taxes.
The Mexican tax for tobacco products is calculated this way:
The value of the exceeding tobacco products multiplied by 373.56%.
If you bring anything exceeding $30 worth of tobacco, you will need to pay 30 x 373.56% = $112 US, which you will need to pay in pesos.
But in fact, you will pay a little more after you exchange your dollars into pesos, unless you have enough pesos readily available.
Vapes are not allowed to be brought into Mexico by presidential decree, but the Mexican Supreme Court banned the decree as being unconstitutional.
So, in reality, people are traveling to Mexico with their vaping devices every day, but you may still run into some problems.
Frequent travelers to Mexico recommend that you take apart your vaping device and mix it with other belongings inside a makeup bag or toiletry bag, for example, because some customs agents are extorting people, telling them that their vaping devices are illegal.
They will say that the fine is from $300-$500, but will let it go from the goodness of their heart for a mere $50…
What a deal :).
You shouldn’t expect issues with a disposable vape, but if your vape looks expensive and you don’t want to leave it at home, keep $50 in your pocket, just in case.
Can you bring cigarettes on a plane to Canada?
Yes, you can bring them in your carry-on or checked luggage, but the limit of 200 cigarettes per person applies. If, for whatever reason, you want to bring more, then you will be forced to pay taxes for the excess amount.
I would advise against this as Canadian taxes are kinda tricky because they differ from province to province.
How many cigarettes can you take with you on a plane to the U.K?
200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, or 250 grams of tobacco.
If you are under 18 years old, you are not allowed to bring any tobacco products into the United Kingdom.
Why is there an ashtray in the airplane bathrooms if no one is allowed to smoke?
The answer is simple: some people decide to have a smoke, disregarding the rules.
The issue is that throwing stubs in the trash is way more dangerous than ditching them in the ashtray. Usually, the trash is full of flammable materials.
Smoking on a plane is not the biggest problem you will encounter if you get caught.
People usually use a wet napkin or toilet paper to cover the smoke detector so that they can smoke without triggering the smoke alarm.
They don’t know that tampering in any way with the smoke detector is a federal offense that will cost them up to $2,000.
Not to mention that depending on the airline, they might get banned from future flights.
Being caught tampering with the smoke detector will also land your name on the Unruly Passengers list.
Some airlines like Delta are even demanding that the rules be changed and unruly passengers should be also added to the terrorist no-fly list- source
It does escalate quickly – from smoking on a plane to being considered a terrorist – but I think that’s the world we live in.
In the past, were you allowed to smoke on planes?
Back in the days when the tobacco industry was paying doctors to recommend smoking as a healthy habit compared to… just breathing air, smoking on the plane was normal, like using seat belts at landings nowadays.
What’s worse is that the airplanes from that period didn’t have the fancy A.C. units and filters that modern day planes have.
The air was recirculated inside until even the non-smokers inhaled enough exhaled smoke to move from passive smokers to active ones.
It shouldn’t surprise you that flight crews were not happy about this.
Lung cancer was becoming a reality for them.
In 1960, people started to revolt against this allowance, and more and more voices wanted to ban the act.
At the beginning of the 1990s, most airlines started to ban smoking on planes, and 10 years later, you couldn’t smoke on commercial flights, no matter the destination.
Can you take chewing tobacco through airport security?
Yes, you can take chewing tobacco through airport security without any issues in either your checked luggage or carry-on.
The same TSA rules apply the same as for any tobacco product.
I know what you might be thinking: am I allowed to chew tobacco inside the airport or plane?
Yes you are, there are no TSA rules that prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco products inside the airport.
Most airlines have banned chewing tobacco inside airplanes, but not all of them.
You will need to check with the airline to see if they allow chewing tobacco inside their airplane.
If you plan to chew tobacco inside the airplane, be careful not to bring certain variations with a strong scent.
Some passengers will be disturbed by the smell, and they might report you to the flight attendant.
This was not a big problem in the past, but nowadays, spitting your chewing tobacco in a container might be considered by some as a way of spreading Covid-19.
If you still want to feel that nicotine kick, I advise chewing some nicotine gum. Trust me, the people next to you will be grateful.
You can also travel with chewing tobacco to Canada, Mexico, Australia, and the U.K.
Can you fly with an open pack of cigarettes?
Absolutely yes. You can bring an open pack with you. Open or closed, it doesn’t matter. You are not breaking any TSA rules.
You can bring cigarettes in a snuff box and ditch the pack altogether if it makes you feel more comfortable.