Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed a law restricting the indoor use of electronic nicotine delivery systems, also known as e-cigarettes. This provision, within New York’s Clean Indoor Air Act, ultimately prohibits e-cigarettes in environments where combustible cigarettes are already banned. Taking effect in November 2017, e-cigarettes will be restricted in bars, restaurants and worksites. This announcement follows Cuomo’s recent legislation restricting e-cigarettes on all public and private school grounds.
These restrictions signify a milestone for public health law in New York state. Since 2003, the Clean Indoor Air act has protected millions of people and created cleaner breathing environments. This new provision will decrease the social acceptability of e-cigarettes, and help prevent secondhand vapor exposure. And perhaps, most importantly, it will prevent countless young adults and teenagers from starting a lifelong and dangerous addiction to nicotine.
With over 7,000 flavors and technology-savvy advances, e-cigs are aggressively marketed to attract youth. While the use of traditional cigarettes in New York state is at an all-time low, e-cigarette use by high school students doubled from 10.5 percent in 2014 to 20.6 percent in 2016. Nationally, it escalated 900 percent from 2011 to 2015, becoming the most commonly used form of nicotine among youth. In 2017, an alarming 30 percent of all Monroe County youth reported using e-cigs in the past 30 days.
Last year, the U.S. Surgeon General’s report acknowledged that e-cigarettes are not safe and contain harmful ingredients. It was recommended that federal, state and local governments participate in the regulation of manufacturing, marketing and the distribution of e-cigarettes. The report confirmed that e-cigs not only deliver and contain highly addictive nicotine, but that adolescent exposure to nicotine is dangerous as it damages brain development, impulse control and primes young brains for addiction. Evidence also shows that youth often use e-cigarettes concurrently with other tobacco products, leading to long-term nicotine addiction.
Health experts have repeatedly debunked claims that e-cigarettes are effective cessation devices and healthier alternatives to cigarettes. Adult smokers using e-cigarettes as a cessation device often maintain combustible and e-cigarette dual use over time, ultimately not reducing tobacco-related chronic diseases or death. Medical research reports e-cig vapor contains carcinogens, heavy metals and dangerous aerosol chemicals to which bystanders may be exposed.
We are proud of New York for joining 11 other states in adding this policy to their clean indoor air laws, and continuing to be a leader on tobacco policy. Overall, restricting e-cigarettes will help promote a smoke-free norm, and propel comprehensive tobacco control and prevention strategies to keep New Yorkers safer and healthier.