The National Park Service (NPS) released a memo detailing its new policy on electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) like electronic cigarettes. According to said memo, using ENDS will be treated as smoking tobacco, meaning all tobacco restrictions will be applied.

According to Jonathan Jarvis, NPS Director, the existing policy regarding tobacco smoking was first issued in 2003, undergoing revision in 2009. The purpose of the order then (and now) is to protect park guests and employees from the annoyances and health hazards of being exposed to environmental tobacco smoke or second-hand smoke, which has been shown to cause cancer.

Since 2009, the use of ENDS has grown as people sought alternatives to traditional tobacco smoking in an effort to improve health, with many using electronic cigarettes to transition to quitting smoking. However, the liquid solution used in electronic cigarettes still contains nicotine, which is dispersed in a vapor released by ENDS. Nicotine is also found in second-hand smoke from tobacco cigarettes but the level released by ENDS is roughly just about a tenth of what tobacco produces.

The memo also cited research done by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Division of Pharmaceutical Analysis that supports the NPS new policy. According to researchers, an assessment of ingredients in ENDS cartridges from two leading brands revealed that ENDS emitted nitrosamines, a carcinogen specific to tobacco, and diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical found in antifreeze.

In 2014, the FDA proposed a rule that would officially categorize ENDS as tobacco products based on the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and require manufacturers to limit sales to minors and use warning labels on their products. In the same year, the World Health Organization also called for ENDS to be banned for indoor use, particularly in spaces where tobacco smoking is already banned.

The memo reasoned that the new policy is the result of "acting out of an abundance of caution in light of the scientific findings and uncertainty to date and in the interest of equity." Aside from the parks themselves, ENDS use is also prohibited on all government-leased or owned vehicles, including aircraft, watercraft and heavy equipment on properties.

The only exception allowed by the new policy (but not encouraged by the NPS) is the use of ENDS in designated smoking areas, as well as in rooms and other indoor spaces if permitted by local and state laws.

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