May 22, 2020 by John Fernandez
Electronic Cigarettes Banned in National Parks
Don’t fire up electronic cigarettes in national parks. The National Park Service has banned the use of electronic or vapor cigarettes in its more than 400 National Park locations, including a long list of national parks in Florida.
The new policy places e-cigarettes under the same longstanding National Park prohibition enforced against traditional tobacco smoking products. The ban also applies to all government-owned or leased vehicles and facilities affiliated with the parks, including concession stands. The nicotine in electronic smoke vapors sparked the new ban.
“Nicotine is highly addictive, toxic to developing fetuses and impairs fetal brain and lung development,” according to the National Park Service policy statement.
Nicotine is linked to several cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes, says Javier Perez-Fernandez, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group physician, who specializes in pulmonary medicine.
The vapors from e-cigarettes contain about one-tenth of the amount of nicotine found in the secondhand smoke from traditional tobacco products, but that’s enough to be a health threat, according to experts.
“You’re still exposed to a toxic substance,” Dr. Perez says. ”It’s still poison.”
What’s more, recent studies have also found that e-cigarette vapors contain other harmful substances, including heavy metals and cancer-causing agents. E-cigarettes can be harmful to both smokers and bystanders, according to medical experts from Baptist Health South Florida.
Secondhand Smoke and Health Risks
“Any lung disease that a smoker can get, you can get from environmental or secondhand smoke, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),” says Raul Valor, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group physician and section chief of pulmonary care at Baptist Hospital.
Secondhand smoke is also linked to lung cancer, bronchitis, sinusitis and other cardiovascular and coronary diseases, Dr. Perez says. What’s more, even without toxic chemicals, the heated vapors in e-cigarettes can be a problem.
“Heated vapors are an irritant to the lungs and can be just as harmful to the lungs as traditional cigarettes,” Dr. Valor says.
Teens and Vapors
E-cigarettes have become especially controversial because the products seem designed to appeal to teens and pre-teens. To broaden the appeal, manufacturers have added candy and tropical fruit flavors to e-cigarettes, according to industry watchdogs and other critics.
“Those flavors can be very compelling to some individuals, including kids,” Dr. Perez says.
A recent federal report shows a whopping 300 percent increase in the number of preteens and teens, who smoke e-cigarettes.
Caption: Electronic smoking has been banned at Dry Tortugas National Park, nearly 70 miles west of Key West, and other National Parks. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.