Vaping, or inhaling nicotine with electronic cigarettes, formally would be banned in various areas or buildings at national parks under a proposed rule by the National Park Service.
This would equalize how vapers and other smokers are treated, permitting superintendents to determine where and when to enact bans, said Jeffrey Olson, a spokesman for the federal agency.
There has been some confusion since the National Park Service formally prohibited cigarette smoking in 1983, but only barred vaping as a matter of policy in 2015.
“We’ve never banned smoking in national parks [but] there are some areas where superintendents say ‘No,’ ” Olson said.
That might include group walks, concessions or visitors centers, for example. Smoking and vaping are forbidden in caves and caverns.
On Fire Island, both smoking and vaping are barred in government buildings or within 25 feet of them, on decks and boardwalks, and on beaches with lifeguards, according to the Code of Federal Regulations and the national seashore’s policies.
“The only time there might be a park-wide ban on smoking was if the fire danger is really high, but if something like that happens, we’re banning campfires and cooking fires, it’s not about smoking but fire danger,” Olson said.
Last week, the National Park Service proposed including vaping in its definition of smoking, turning the policy into a rule via the Code of Federal Regulations process.
Saying “the health and safety of our visitors and employees“ is critical, Michael Reynolds, acting director of the National Park Service, in a statement added “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.”
Last year, the surgeon general said a “drastic leap” in vaping by teenagers and young adults is harming their health as they are inhaling “aerosolized nicotine, flavorants, chemicals, and other particulates.” And the FDA began regulating e-cigarettes the same way it sets rules for other tobacco products.
The public comment period for the new vaping rule ends on March 7. Those comments will have to be reviewed and responded to before the new rule is formalized.
New York State, New York City, Nassau and Suffolk have reached the same conclusions about vaping, broadening their anti-smoking initiatives to include e-cigarettes, often guided by the federal government’s health findings.