I am writing in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing recent legislation that called for the immediate ban of the use of electronic cigarettes on all public and private school grounds in New York state.

The announcement comes a month after the New York State Assembly passed legislation adding electronic cigarettes to the Clean Indoor Air Act. E-cigarettes are a public health concern and also the most commonly used tobacco product among youth in the U.S. The U.S. Surgeon General states e-cigarette usage is not safe. Legislation would ban the use of e-cigarettes on “school grounds,” which are defined as any building, structure and surrounding outdoor grounds within a public or private nursery, preschool, elementary or secondary school property, including vehicles used to transport adolescents.

Although smoking rates for New York state teenagers are at an all-time low, a survey released by the New York State Department of Health found that e-cigarette use by high school students nearly doubled in the past two years, from 10.5 percent in 2014 to 20.6 percent in 2016. A 2015 Monroe County Youth Risk Behavior Survey Report detailed that 24 percent of Monroe County youth, at that time, currently smoked either cigarettes, cigars and/or used e-cigarettes; 51 percent of those youth smokers had attempted to quit in the past month. Cuomo’s step to ban all e-cigarette usage on school grounds is not only timely and imperative, but it also reiterates the importance of keeping New York state youth safer, healthier and knowledgeable of e-cigarette risks.

Additionally, a recent U.S. Surgeon General's report shows the number of high school students using e-cigarettes soared 900 percent between 2011 and 2015, becoming the most commonly used form of nicotine among youths. Electronic nicotine or vapor delivery systems deliver and contain nicotine. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that impacts the health and mental health of our youth. Nicotine exposure during adolescence is especially dangerous and unsafe; it causes addiction, damage to brain development, and it is associated with the use of other tobacco products.

This new legislation will prevent exposure to secondhand e-cigarette vapor in and around schools; it will decrease the social acceptability of this product, diminish youth access to e-cigs; and it will protect children against the dangers associated with its use. Almost 90 percent of adult smokers started using tobacco before the age of 18, and with the average age of a teenager smoker being 13 years old, it is necessary to establish a healthier New York for all and provide sustainable communities in which our children grow, learn and prosper in. These steps will help propel New York state comprehensive tobacco control and prevention strategies to protect youth and young adults.

Alexandra M. Popovici is the community engagement manager for the American Lung Association's Smoking and Health Action Coalition of Monroe County.