Despite the fact that most states have anti-smoking laws pretty much everywhere you go, smoking is still a hot topic in the US. However, as a hiker, you should be aware of national parks’ policies on smoking, regardless of whether you smoke or not. So, this brings us to the question, can you smoke in a national park?
Once you’re inside the parks, the NPS has strict laws against smoking. Smoking cigarettes, including vaping, is only allowed in designated areas, and those are pretty few and far between. When it comes to smoking on the trails, it’s an absolute no-no.
So, what about smoking in national parks within states where possession of marijuana is legal, like Yosemite and Yellowstone? Is it illegal to smoke in those parks? Let’s find out!
Are You Allowed to Smoke Tobacco in A National Park?
For the most part – yes, you can smoke tobacco in a national park, but only within its designated smoking areas. The National Park Service (NPS) does not allow smoking in public spaces and buildings.
However, each park will have its own designated smoking area. You can always ask a park ranger for clarification regarding the areas in the park where you can smoke and where smoking is illegal.
Why Does the NPS Have Such Strict Anti-Smoking Laws?
So, why does the National Park Service restrict smoking cigarettes? Well, for starters, cigarette butts are the most common form of litter in parks. They’re unsightly, difficult to clean up, and can be dangerous to wildlife. Additionally, smoking cigarettes poses a serious fire hazard in national parks. Every year, wildfires devastate large portions of parks across the country. As a matter of fact, during the summer, many of the parks on the west coast are closed due to the high risk of wildfires.
Another issue is that cigarette butts can take up to 10 years to decompose and are a leading cause of water pollution. When it rains, the chemicals in cigarettes are washed into rivers, lakes, and streams. These chemicals can be harmful to fish, plants, and other aquatic creatures. In short, smoking cigarettes in national parks is not only illegal but also detrimental to the environment.
Not to mention the health risks – According to the CDC, tobacco causes an estimated 480,000 deaths in the United States every year. But what’s important to note is that this death record includes 41,000 people who were not direct smokers but were exposed due to secondhand smoke.
The no-smoking policy established by the National Park Service isn’t just to protect its sacred grounds. It also aims to protect employees and visitors from the health hazards associated with exposure to tobacco smoke.
So, What Does The No-Smoking Policy Entail?
If you are a smoker, read this. Below is a summary of the policy so that you do not violate National Park regulations:
- All interior spaces of National Park Service buildings are smoke-free zones. This includes buildings that the service owns, leases, or manages. In addition, it includes shared government housing such as bunkhouses, apartments, dormitories, and mobile homes.
- Stop smoking when you are within 25 feet of any park entrance or exit that is accessible to visitors.
- Stop smoking when you are within 25 feet of the entrance or exit of any park area where smoke could enter through doorways, air ducts, windows, or other openings.
- No smoking is permitted inside any government-owned or leased vehicle, including heavy equipment, aircraft, and watercraft.
- Avoid smoking in areas of the national park where smoking is prohibited by the site manager. This is done to safeguard park resources and reduce the likelihood of fire outbreaks. They also do this to protect their employees and the public from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.
So what are the exceptions to this smoking policy? When and where can you smoke without fear of breaking park rules?
- Smoking is permitted on sidewalks and outdoor parking lots.
- There are designated smoking areas throughout the park. These locations are frequently chosen by park managers because they do not jeopardize park resources and do not expose employees and visitors to tobacco smoke. Furthermore, these designated areas do not raise the risk of fire outbreaks within the park.
Are You Allowed to Smoke Marijuana in A National Park?
It is illegal to smoke or carry marijuana within national parks. It is important to note that these places are under federal jurisdiction, obeying federal laws.
There’s a very important distinction here. Smoking and transporting marijuana are both illegal under federal law. Even if you live in a state where smoking and carrying cannabis are legal, the state’s laws do not apply within the national park. In other words, possessing marijuana within a national park located in a state where it is legal is illegal. As a result, smoking marijuana is prohibited in national parks.
There are heavy consequences for people caught carrying marijuana on federal land, including national parks.
And before you ask, this rule applies even in states like Colorado, California, and Oregon, where recreational marijuana is legal and thriving.
Can You Vape In A National Park?
Unfortunately for vapers, the answer is no. You are not allowed to vape in national parks. The same rules that apply to smoking also apply to vaping.
The National Park Service’s policy on smoking also includes the use of electronic cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. All of these devices are included in the “smoking” ban.
While you may argue that vaping is less harmful than smoking, the data, unfortunately, is still inconclusive. In addition, vaping can be disruptive to other park visitors. No one wants a big cloud of cherry-scented vapor in their face while they’re trying to enjoy the outdoors.
However, you can vape in public places or national park areas designated for smoking or related activities.
Some Popular National Parks and Their Smoking Laws
The following are some of the most popular national parks, along with their smoking policies:
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National park does not allow smoking, although there are exceptions. You can smoke within an enclosed vehicle or campground areas designated for smoking. You can also smoke in picnic areas where this national park allows wood or charcoal fires. The Yosemite national park also allows smoking in paved areas devoid of vegetation.
It is safe to smoke in the marked areas designated for smoking, as there is no risk of a fire outbreak.
The Grand Canyon
Smoking is not permitted in the Grand Canyon National Park. Smoking is only permitted in enclosed vehicles. Any form of fire is prohibited in this park, including wood burning, campfires, barbeque, and charcoal fires.
This park prohibits smoking in campgrounds, developed recreation areas, backcountry areas, and residential areas. This policy is intended to shield nonsmokers from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke.
Big Bend National Park
This national park allows smoking only in designated areas. Outside ash or cigarette receptacles are provided in these areas. In addition, due to the high risk of fire outbreaks in Big Bend National Park, you are not permitted to light a fire, including charcoal, camp, or barbeque fires.
Glacier National Park
This national park allows smoking within an enclosed vehicle or building. You can also smoke in a developed recreation area and in areas that have been cleared of all flammable materials.
Yellowstone National Park
While in the Yellowstone national park, you can smoke inside a vehicle. You can also do so on a sidewalk, gravel, or paved parking areas. Other places where you can smoke include developed campgrounds, designated smoking areas within buildings, and immediately adjacent to backcountry fire rings.
However, you cannot smoke in all public areas, ranger stations, and visitor centers. And definitely no smoking on thermal areas and trails. Thermal areas often have sulfur deposits on their surface. Sulfur is combustible, and if you light a match or a cigarette, be prepared for an explosion.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This national park takes it a step further and bans smoking in indoor sites and in parked vehicles. So if you were planning to vape in your car before heading out, think again. You are also not allowed to smoke in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park backcountry areas.
Zion National Park
You can smoke in developed recreational sites, designated smoking areas, and enclosed vehicles at Zion National Park. To clarify on the recreational site, it must be clear of vegetation, or areas devoid of vegetation.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain national park does not allow smoking except within an enclosed vehicle. You can also smoke in a vehicle within a developed paved area without vegetation.
Acadia National Park
Smoking in trails, public spaces, and buildings is prohibited. Acadia has designated smoking areas.
Olympic National Park
You can smoke in rock areas, beaches, clearings, roads, and river bars in the Olympic National Park. Essentially, they allow you to smoke in bare areas that are free of vegetation.
Grand Teton National Park
The park slightly extends out to Montana, where there is a statewide smoking ban. So if you’re on the Montana side, no smoking for you. In Wyoming, they have a designated smoking area in the park.
National Parks are places where people can experience nature at its finest, and we are responsible for keeping it that way.
If you must smoke, please do so responsibly and only in designated areas. Be sure to follow all park rules and regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.