National Park Service mysteriously backtracks on vaping ban with little explanation

Yesterday afternoon, January 18, the U.S. National Park Service posted a short and rather mysterious announcement on the Federal Register seeming backtracking on their recent call for a vaping ban in all national parks.  The original announcement posted on January 6 opened the matter up for public discussion for a period of some 60-days.  However, it only took less than two weeks for the NPS to seemingly change its mind.

So, what happened?

The NPS isn’t offering much in the way of a reason.  In fact, Gizmodo is reporting that NPS spokesman Jeffery Olsen would only restate portions of the rather vague verbiage originally posted in yesterday’s retraction on the Federal Register.

“The National Park Service withdraws the proposed rule that would revise the regulation that defines smoking to include the use of electronic cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems; and would allow a superintendent to close an area, building, structure, or facility to smoking when necessary to maintain public health and safety. The withdrawal is based upon a need to engage in additional interagency coordination and review of the proposal.”

It is this last sentence using the term “intragency coordination” that has many in the vaping industry speculating about the NPS’s sudden change of heart regarding the proposed vaping ban.  Is “interagency coordination” a code phrase for “infighting amongst the troops?”  Are there vastly differing opinions being bandied about my key players within the incoming Trump Administration?  Or do these opinions of the Trump Team vary greatly from those of Obama’s?

The truth is:  No one seems to know at this point.  And those who say that they do are probably only guessing. 

Why did the NPS propose a vaping ban in the first place?

The original NPS proposal of January 6 referenced a couple of reasons for the proposed vaping ban.  One was concern over issues related to second-hand vapor, citing the agency’s desire to “protect employees and park visitors from the health hazards and annoyances associated with (electronic cigarettes).”  But even the NPS admits that more research is needed regarding the alleged dangers of second-hand vapor.

The original proposal also noted that, while explosions of vaping devices have been known to occur, they are also decidedly rare. 

“In addition to public health risks from the inhalation of vapor, ENDS also pose a risk of explosion and fire. A 2014 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report stated that fires or explosions caused by the failure of lithium-ion batteries in ENDS are rare, but possible.16 Between 2009 and August 2014, 25 incidents of explosion and fire involving e-cigarettes were reported in the U.S. Most of the incidents occurred while the battery was charging, but serious burn injuries were also reported from explosions when the device was in the user’s mouth.”

It's almost as if the original NPS proposal was written in such a way as to give the NPS an “out” should they decide to change their minds in the future.  Did the NPS allow a 60-day discussion period because administrators truly did not know which way they wanted to lean on the national parks vaping ban?  And does this sudden reversal mean that vaping will always be allowed inside national parks from this day forward? 

Is the National Park Service for or against vaping?

Until the National Park Service offers further insights into its decision-making process regarding this matter, the vaping industry is left to wonder and hypothesize.  A new, stricter ban might be in the works.  Or the NPS might dismiss a vaping ban entirely.  But for now, vaping in national parks is allowed.  So, vape away, and be safe.

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