A state law aimed at combatting teen smoking will affect thousands of businesses by subjecting them to health inspections to ensure that the law is being enforced.
As of Tuesday, the minimum age to buy tobacco products will be 21, which brings Maryland into a group of states that have raised the minimum age to buy tobacco. The law affects the age of sale for electronic nicotine products, and applies to 6,000 businesses throughout the state.
But enforcement of the law will focus on the retailers who sell tobacco and nicotine products, not the teens who break the law by purchasing the products, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun. Retailers that break the law face fines that escalate from $300 for a first offense to $3,000 for subsequent violations, according to the Associated Press.
Maryland is the 18th state to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. This is important health concern because 94% “of adult smokers had their first cigarette before turning 21, according to the American Lung Association.
“The goal is to make it as difficult as possible for our young people to have access to nicotine products,” Delegate Dereck Davis, the Democrat who sponsored the law, told the Sun.
Only military personnel who are over 18-years old but below the 21-year old threshold can continue to buy nicotine products. They must, however, utilize their military identification to continue to purchase these items.
The law passed the state General Assembly assembly by a vote of 101-35 in April after the initial passage in the state Senate. As part of this legislation, the Maryland Department of Health will implement random inspections of sites to check on compliance. According to the law, the department “may use an individual younger than age 21 to assist in conducting the inspections.”
An estimated 255,000 Maryland residents who are 18, 19 and 20, will be affected by Tuesday’s law.