The Transportation Security Administration has changed its x-ray screening policy for certain electronic items, and, if first reports are any indication, travelers trying to bring their electronics through airport security checkpoints could be in for a confusing time.

With little notice, TSA announced that effective August 4 passengers must remove full-size video game consoles (such as PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo consoles), as well as DVD players, from their carrying cases for separate x-ray screening if they are carrying these electronic items onboard airplanes. This is the same procedure that has long been used for laptop computers.

In a notice on its Web site, TSA has announced this policy does not extend to small electronic items, such as cell phones, MP3 players, iPods, and portable video game systems. Yet, reader postings on some meetings and travel industry message boards indicate that over the weekend TSA screeners in some airports were asking travelers to separate all electronics from the rest of their carry-on baggage.

An article in the Seattle Times quotes TSA Spokesperson Jennifer Peppin as saying the focus of the new x-ray procedures would be “on large electronic equipment … Obviously these types of devices can resemble components that could be used in explosives.”

At the same time TSA was implementing the new electronics x-ray screening policy, it was relaxing its ban on cigarette lighters. According to TSA, this change was made because lighters “no longer pose a significant threat,” and it frees up security officers from the onerous task of confiscating 22,000 lighters a day so that they can concentrate on more immediate security matters such as finding explosives.