NEW YORK (WABC) --The rate of smoking among New York State high school students fell to a record low last year, but the use of e-cigarettes by students has sharply increased, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
Cuomo said the state's high school student smoking rate in 2016 was the lowest on record at 4.3 percent, down from 27.1 percent in 2000.
But he added that a survey recently released by the New York State Department of Health found that e-cigarette use by high school students nearly doubled in the last two years from 10.5 percent in 2014 to 20.6 percent in 2016.
"These startling numbers demonstrate both the overwhelming success of New York's anti-smoking programs - which have led to record low teen cigarette use - and the need to close dangerous loopholes that leave e-cigarettes unregulated," Cuomo said. "Combating teen tobacco use in all of its forms today will help create a healthier tomorrow for an entire generation of New Yorkers."
In his 2018 budget, Cuomo is proposing regulating e-cigarettes in a similar manner as traditional cigarettes to address growing concerns about the health impact of e-cigarettes.
According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, 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, the state said.
Due to their sweet flavor and the mistaken belief that they are not harmful to users, e-cigarette use continues to increase, according to state officials. The report also found that the use of e-cigarettes among youths and young adults is strongly associated with the use of other tobacco products.
"The rapid rise in e-cigarette use among youth and its dual use with cigarettes is a cause for great concern," said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "We've had significant success in reducing smoking among young people in New York State. E-cigarette use by youth can be a gateway to nicotine addiction. We must continue to safeguard New York youth from the dangers associated with cigarette and e-cigarette use, both known and unknown."