How Smokers Can Get The Most Out of US National Parks
As we move away from the summer, there’s a likelihood you’ll still be planning days out, trips, and vacations in the United States, even if they’re coming up in 2024. Whilst many people choose to vacation abroad, a growing number of people will opt for a trip within our own borders. Indeed, domestic travel spending is around $932 billion post-Covid, meaning our attractions and resorts are as popular as ever.
National Parks are one such attraction. US National Parks attracted 312 million visits in 2022, accounting for a huge portion of internal tourism. They’re a great way to get out and enjoy fresh air, which means smokers could find themselves limited.
Indeed, National Parks often regulate where you can smoke, designating certain areas and completely banning them within 25 feet of any building. Did you know it’s illegal to walk and smoke in Yosemite? You can stand still, smoke, and then extinguish, but not walk the trails with a lighted cigarette.
If you’re planning a camping trip, either as the weather changes for the worst, or looking ahead to next year, then you may need to address your smoking habit. Here’s why you shouldn’t smoke in a National Park and what you can do about it.
The Damage Smoking Does To National Parks
People across the generations have enjoyed the natural beauty of our National Parks. These rugged, natural landscapes are a source of inspiration and a sanctuary for countless species of flora and fauna. They’re perfect for outdoor pursuits such as wild camping and present a natural habitat for many different species of animals and plants.
However, as visitors flock to our parks to immerse themselves in the great outdoors, a dark cloud follows some of them – the dangers of smoking.
Smoking poses a dual threat in US National Parks, jeopardizing both the natural environment and the health and safety of visitors. First and foremost, smoking poses a significant fire hazard. Wildfires have become increasingly common in recent years, exacerbated by climate change and prolonged droughts.
Something as simple as a discarded cigarette butt, the preferred method of disposal for 75% of smokers, according to this page, can spark a devastating blaze that threatens not only the park’s ecosystem but also nearby communities.
In fact, a study published in the journal Ecological Applications found that human-caused fires, including those ignited by smoking materials, account for a significant portion of wildfires in National Parks.
Beyond the risk of wildfires, smoking harms the park’s natural ecosystem. Cigarette butts are made of non-biodegradable materials like plastic filters, which leach harmful chemicals into the soil and water, disrupting the delicate balance of the natural environment. Wildlife, too, falls victim to this toxic litter, with animals mistaking cigarette butts for food or becoming entangled in discarded cigarette packaging.
It’s not just the damage cigarettes and smoking cause to the environment either – secondhand smoke poses health risks to visitors and wildlife. National Parks are meant to be places where people can breathe in the pure, clean air of the wilderness. However, smokers inadvertently expose others to the dangers of secondhand smoke in these pristine locations.
Wildlife that comes into contact with these carcinogenic chemicals can suffer severe health consequences, further endangering the fragile ecosystems.
What Are The Parks Doing About It?
Some National Parks have already implemented smoking restrictions or bans to combat these dangers. For instance, the National Park Service has prohibited smoking inside certain park buildings, enclosed vehicles, and on designated trails and picnic areas. These measures aim to reduce the risk of wildfires and protect visitors’ health.
However, these restrictions are not uniform across all parks, and more comprehensive policies are needed.
Enforcing stricter regulations, such as a complete ban on smoking in all National Parks, may be the most effective way to mitigate the dangers associated with smoking. Still, as yet, regulations have stopped short of such measures. Implementing such a ban would require educating visitors about the risks, providing designated smoking areas outside the park boundaries, and enforcing fines for violations.
The approach would align with the National Park Service’s mission to protect these natural wonders for future generations, but would also entail a huge amount of work and policing. How would you stop people lighting up if they’re camping in the wilds of Acadia?
Also, critics argue that such a ban would infringe on personal freedom, and the right to choice would be affected. However, the rights of individuals must be weighed against the collective responsibility to safeguard our national treasures and protect public health. It’s a careful balancing act that the regulators are seeking to find, and while regulations will help, there’s a degree of personal responsibility needed when it comes to smoking in National Parks.
That means for full enjoyment, visitors may feel the need to turn to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) as a way of enjoying National Parks and staying smoke-free. An NRT delivers nicotine by alternative methods, meaning there’s no combustion and, in some instances, no litter left over afterward.
Here are some of the best NRTs on the market and why they’re suitable for a visit to one of our National Parks.
Nicotine patches are transdermal patches that deliver nicotine to the body through the skin. They help by reducing withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, irritability, and anxiety, and they’re discreet as they are worn on the arm and can last up to 24 hours. That makes them perfect for a walk around our National Parks and even a camping trip.
The most popular brand is Nicotinell from GlaxoSmithKline, but many other brands are available.
The patches typically come in various strengths and are designed to be used over several weeks, with the dosage gradually decreasing over time. While nicotine patches can be an effective product for replacing nicotine, they are not suitable for everyone and can cause skin irritation, dizziness, and nausea. They will also need to be removed when finished, which could mean litter, although a responsible user would take a tin for their disposal after the trip.
Nicotine pouches are a relatively new NRT that may suit those looking to explore our National Parks. They’re a pouch that fits underneath the lip, slowly releases nicotine over a 30-minute to one-hour period, and come in many different brands, such as Velo and On! By clicking here, you can see that the Velo pouches come in various strengths, helping heavier smokers as well as those with lighter habits.
They come in different flavors too, so you may have something fresh, such as wintergreen or even citrus, depending on your palette. They’re discreet and can be used with no visible external impact.
The tins also come with a section for disposing of your old pouches, which makes them suitable for a visit to Yosemite or a similar National Park. Unlike gum, which would have to be discarded, a pouch could be stored until you are near a bin, meaning no littering impact from your NRT.
Nicotine lozenges are another form of oral NRT that may be used in a National Park. They work by slowly releasing nicotine into the body through the mouth and are available in various strengths to accommodate different levels of nicotine dependence, as well as different flavors to lessen the unpleasantness of using a nicotine product.
Unlike nicotine gum, which requires frequent chewing and eventual disposal, nicotine lozenges dissolve slowly in the mouth, allowing for a longer-lasting dose of nicotine. That also means they do not leave anything in the mouth that needs to be disposed of, making them better for a National park than gum.
Nicotine sprays, like the one from Nicorette QuickMist explored here, work by delivering a fine mist of nicotine directly into the nostrils, providing a quick and effective dose of nicotine. As with other NRTs, the sprays are available in various strengths but are often used when needed, for instance, when a craving kicks in, rather than for a set period, as with our other solutions.
They are also discreet and convenient, making them a popular choice for individuals who are always on the go, such as spending time in a National Park. It is worth noting that nicotine sprays can cause side effects such as throat and nasal irritation and should be used cautiously by individuals with a history of respiratory issues.
While our National Parks are beautiful, unspoiled landscapes, the scourge of the modern world is infringing on that beauty, and nothing is quite as invasive as the cigarette. The onus is not just on lawmakers to look after our national treasures but also on park visitors, who have a moral responsibility to look after them for future generations. That almost certainly entails not smoking or at least trying to curb the habit when visiting.
Don’t let this nasty invasive habit ruin your stay. I was a smoker for 23 years and quit in 2008. Best thing I have ever done for my health.
Hopefully, this guide has helped make that process a little bit easier for those wishing to be responsible but who are also in the grip of a nicotine addiction.
If you enjoyed this article, follow this link to find our top camping destinations in the US, including some in National Parks.