Use of e-cigarettes now banned in all national parks

The National Park Service announced Monday that the use of electronic cigarettes is now banned anywhere tobacco smoking is prohibited in the national parks.

Existing National Park Service policies regarding tobacco smoking were originally issued in 2003 and later revised in 2009, according to a National Park Service internal memo. The new policy was issued in an effort to “protect employees and park visitors from the health hazards and annoyances associated with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, commonly known as secondhand smoke, which is a known human carcinogen,” the memo stated.

The use of e-cigarettes will not be allowed in any government owned or leased vehicle including heavy equipment, watercraft or aircraft in the park. Vaping will also be prohibited in national park concession facilities and other buildings.

The memo cites several studies that say vapor exhaled from electronic cigarettes contain nicotine at a level roughly one-tenth of that found in secondhand smoke. The decision to ban e-cigarettes in the same prohibited areas as tobacco smoking was made “out of an abundance of caution in light of the scientific findings and uncertainty to date, and in the interest of equity,” the memo said.

With the recent announcement, the National Park Service joined several other government agencies that have limited the use of e-cigarettes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established a policy that prohibits vaping in all interior spaces of Fish and Wildlife vehicles and facilities, and in August 2014, the U.S. Geological Survey banned the use of e-cigarettes in all its “interior space, courtyards, atriums, balconies and bus stops.”

A National Park Service spokesman told U.S. News that if a park superintendent decides to restrict outdoor smoking for reasons such as preventing forest fires, that restriction would now also apply to electronic cigarettes. However, U.S. News said it’s unclear if an electronic cigarette had contributed to a wildfire, and American Vaping Association Trade Group President Gregory Conley said the new restrictions are a bad idea and should not be enforced.

“Outdoor smoking bans in parks can at least somewhat be justified by the risk of fires, but vapor products pose no more of a fire risk than a cellphone battery,” Conley told U.S. News. “This behavior is shameful and any enforcement of the ban will constitute a great misuse of government resources. The National Park Service should leave ex-smokers alone and let them camp and hike in peace.”

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