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Maryland’s 21 Tobacco Bill To Limit Underage Tobacco Usage

In seven states and Washington, D.C., it is illegal for retailers to sell tobacco products to anyone younger than 21.

A bill that would make Maryland the eighth state to boost its age-of-consent for cigarette sales cleared an important hurdle Tuesday when the Senate Finance Committee voted 9-2 to advance a measure offered by the panel’s chairwoman, Sen. Delores G. Kelley (D-Baltimore).

The measure, which backers have dubbed Tobacco 21, includes the sales of so-called e-cigarettes, such as JUUL, whose sales have skyrocketed in recent years.

Health advocates high-fived one another outside the hearing room after the bipartisan show of support.

“What we’re really seeing right now is a public health epidemic,” said Laura Hale, head of the Maryland chapter of the American Heart Association. “Our youth are using these products at really high rates. … By raising the age to 21, just like we saw with alcohol, we kick it out of the high schools.”

“Tobacco 21 will save lives,” added Jocelyn Collins of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

At a bill hearing last month, retailers expressed concern that 18-, 19- and 20-year-old store clerks might not be allowed to sell cigarette products as the bill was originally drawn.

Companies that manufacture e-cigarettes are watching Maryland’s actions closely. They claim their products are frequently used by people who want to quit traditional cigarettes.

“Vapor products need to be thought of as a health tool, as a harm-reduction component that allows adult smokers to lead a healthier lifestyle by quitting cigarettes,” said David Pasch, a spokesman for Voices for Vaping, part of the Vapor Technology Association. “It doesn’t make any sense in the world to start taxing and doing other things to discourage people from buying vapor products, when they exist and need to exist to help adult smokers quit.”


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