ALBANY, N.Y. — Electronic cigarettes are now being treated like cigarettes when it comes to where they can be used in New York.

The devices have been added to the Clean Indoor Air Act, which means they are now prohibited from the same spaces smoking tobacco products across the state. The change does not impact Tompkins County, which already prohibits e-cigarettes from bars, restaurants and other places.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation this week, saying the move will “close a dangerous loophole” in the law.

“These products are marketed as a healthier alternative to cigarettes but the reality is they also carry long-term risks to the health of users and those around them,” Cuomo said in a news release.

Electronic cigarettes, also called electronic nicotine delivery systems or ENDS, are battery operated devices that have cartridges filled with liquid that often contain nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals. A heating device in the electronic cigarette turns the liquid into vapor. As the products’ popularity has been growing, so have regulations.

Earlier this year, Cuomo signed legislation that banned the use of electronic cigarettes on all public and private school grounds in New York after reports that showed e-cigarette use by high school students nearly doubled in the last two years. According to the New York State Youth Tobacco Survey, electronic cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product. About 20 percent of youth surveyed said they had tried e-cigarettes.

Tompkins County is years ahead of the state in limiting where electronic cigarettes can be used.

In 2014, Tompkins County Legislature voted to include electronic cigarettes under the county’s 2003 clean indoor air law, saying they pose a potential public health risk. Since then, it has been prohibited to use e-cigarettes in any place of employment, bar or food service establishment.

The purpose of the local resolution was to “place reasonable limitations on smoking within the county while striking a balance between the health needs of all non-smoking individuals, the rights of smokers and the imposition of regulatory burdens on business,” the resolution states.

The Tompkins County Health Department says the emissions from electronic cigarettes and secondhand vapor poses a public health risk, as there are “significant levels of carcinogens and other dangerous chemicals” put into the air when the devices are used.

When the county was in the discussion phase of raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 locally, many people came out to support e-cigarettes and vaping in general, as it has helped them to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes. Ultimately, the county did approve raising the purchasing age. The legislation went into effect this summer.

Under current law, only smoking products containing tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars and pipes, are restricted in public places. However, like Tompkins the majority of counties in New York had already banned the use of e-cigarettes in public places. The new legislation, which goes into effect in 30 days, just makes the law consistent across the state.

Featured image by Vaping360/Flickr.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.