Because things can always be at least slightly worse, the National Park Service wants to permanently ban vaping wherever it bans smoking. According to a press release, the wide-open grandeur of, say, Yellowstone and the wind-swept, garbage-strewn beaches of Gateway National Park's Sandy Hook Beach in New Jersey, are threatened by that guy with an e-cigarette:
The National Park Service (NPS) today proposed revisions to the regulations that address smoking in national parks. The proposed revisions would change the regulation that defines smoking to include the use of electronic cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). The proposed revisions would also allow a superintendent to close an area, building, structure, or facility to smoking, which would include the use of ENDS, when necessary to maintain public health and safety.
"Protecting the health and safety of our visitors and employees is one of the most critical duties of the National Park Service," said Michael Reynolds, Acting Director of the National Park Service. "It is clear from a recent rule by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a report by the Surgeon General that electronic cigarettes are a threat to public health, especially to the health of young people."
These rules would make permanent earlier orders that banned e-cigs anywhere smoking tobacco was already restricted. Which is everywhere indoors and an increasing number of places outdoors, with some exceptions. If
Let's be real. Electronic cigarettes are not a threat to public health. If anything, by giving people a vastly less-toxic (and perhaps fully non-toxic) way to "smoke," e-cigs are good for public health, here and abroad. As Jacob Sullum has noted, one of the main arguments against vaping is that it leads to the smoking of actual cigarettes, a finding that is evident everywhere except actual data of teen habits, European smokers, and elsewhere. Overwhelmingly, vapers use e-cigarettes to cut back on smoking or never progress beyond huffing air to sucking down menthols. And if you're worried about "second-hand vaping," don't bother.
You don't need to believe that vaping is a technology that might "save a billion lives" (the title of a new documentary about e-cigarettes' potential to reduce smoking around the globe) to wonder why the hell the NPS is pursuing such a stupid goal. And a vague one, too: Follwoing the FDA's language, the proposed revisions talks about "nicotine delivery systems," which leaves open a serious legal question about e-liquids that don't contain any nicotine. You also don't have to take the proposed regulations without voicing your opinion. The rules will be published here tomorrow (you can download an advance PDF right now) and there's a 60-day comment period where you can weigh in.
In 1947, the NPS introduced a famous ad campaign featuring its mascot Smokey the Bear telling campers that "Only YOU can prevent forest fires!" Over the years, that led to sensible restrictions on flammable materials and heightened caution about smoking in the parks. By 2003, smoking was banned in NPS vehicles and buildings not out of fears of starting fires but due to concerns about second-hand smoke. In 2009, those rules were revised and various parks have considered going totally smoke-free or further limiting the areas in which a visitor can smoke (and hence, vape). Various groups, such as Truth Initiative, are pushing for completely smoke-free national parks, meaning a complete ban within a park's boundaries.
In December, Reason's Zach Weissmueller talked with Aaron Biebert, director of A Billion Lives, a documentary that makes the case that regulatory agencies and non-governmental organizations are engaged in a campaign of misinformation against e-cigarettes.