This editorial is part of an ongoing series on electronic cigarettes and vaping. The views expressed are purely the opinion of the author, and do not represent those of Bedford Slims in any way. Feedback is welcome.
The National Parks Service this month proposed a ban on vaping and e-cigarette use in National Parks. It's not really anything new. NPS is just making permanent an earlier order clarifying that vaping is not allowed in all areas designated non-smoking.
Ken Burns' documentary on National Parks referred to them as "America's Best Idea." And if that's true, then the NPS vaping ban might be the country's stupidest. I can't believe I actually have to point this out because it seems so gobsmackingly obvious, but the reason that smoking is banned in National Parks is 1) it creates litter and 2) it can start forest fires and VAPING 100% DOES NOT HAVE EITHER OF THOSE PROBLEMS.
Like maybe someone might occasionally leave an e-cigarette cartridge behind, but that's nothing compared to the butts people throw everywhere when they are smoking on a hike. And poorly designed vapes can sometimes explode, which could maybe cause a forest fire. But again, that pales in comparison to the danger posed by smoking cigarettes in a dry area.
By proposing a permanent version of the vaping ban, NPS proves that they completely have their heads up their asses on this. It would be one thing if they issued the original order without much thought because they needed something to tell rangers who were asking if they should tell people to stop vaping. But this proposal is evidence that NPS actually sat down and thought about it for a second, and came up with the most stunningly stupid decision possible.
Regardless of how you feel about the public health impacts of vaping, it's just simply a fact that e-cigarettes are better for the environment than smoking. How many times have you been in a park and come across a disgusting pile of cigarettes butts that were not properly disposed of? If you're like me, it's happened to you a lot. And how many time have you been outdoors and noticed that someone had been vaping there? Zero. Because there's no way to tell.
It's clear that NPS is operating under the same assumption many government agencies do, which is that nicotine use is fading and will soon be completely gone. But that worldview does not in my opinion extend sufficient respect to adults who should be allowed to make their own choices. Not to sound like a libertarian (because, to be clear, I'm not one), but I just don't think it should be the job of every government entity to police citizens' behavior in that way. Lots of people are addicted to caffeine, or alcohol for that matter, and the government just accepts those addictions as a part of life. But vaping has been particularly vilified because of its association with traditional cigarette smoking, so officials can't think straight when it comes to regulating it. NPS should focus on making our National Parks safer and more enjoyable for everyone who wants to visit them. By banning vaping and failing to acknowledge its ecological benefits, they have done the exact opposite.