Maryland raises legal tobacco purchasing age to 21

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The legal age to buy tobacco and nicotine products in Maryland will be raised from 18 to 21, and the state will add vaping devices to the list of tobacco products, under legislation signed Monday by Gov. Larry Hogan (R). 

The law was passed in response to an uptick in teen vaping, which federal officials have declared an “epidemic.” The law will take effect in October.

“There is no more important job than protecting the health and safety of Marylanders,” Hogan said in a statement.{mosads}

The law will require retailers to post warning signs that tobacco products can only be sold to people age 21 or older. The law will apply to all types of tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

The law includes an exception that will allow people 18 and over with military IDs to purchase tobacco, a provision that anti-tobacco advocates oppose.

The rise in teen vaping has helped propel more states to try to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco. According to the American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the law makes Maryland the 13th state to pass some version of “tobacco 21” legislation. Similar bills are moving through legislatures in Arizona and in Florida.

While such laws have been shown to be somewhat effective, advocates say the public health response to ending the youth smoking epidemic needs to include much more, including bans on the sale of flavored tobacco.

Maryland’s law is supported by public health advocates as well as tobacco companies. Kevin Burns, CEO of the leading e-cigarette company Juul, commended Hogan and the state legislature.

“We cannot fulfill our mission to provide the world’s one billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes, the number one cause of preventable death in this country, if youth-use continues unabated,” Burns said in a statement. “That is why we are committed to working with lawmakers to enact these effective policies and hope more jurisdictions follow in Maryland’s example.”

Juul has been under fire for allegedly marketing flavors that appealed to young people, but has been recasting itself as a company focused on providing an alternative to combustible cigarettes for adult smokers.

Public health groups have said any tobacco industry support makes them wary. Tobacco companies have been on the front line pushing for “tobacco 21” legislation at the federal and state levels recently, mainly in an effort to stave off stronger regulations that could have disastrous effects on the industry. They are also trying to argue that merely raising the legal purchasing age is all that’s needed to curb youth smoking and vaping rates.

Altria, one of the largest tobacco companies in the U.S., and Juul recently backed measures authored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) that would increase the nationwide purchasing age to 21.

Tags Electronic cigarettes Juul Mitch McConnell Robert Aderholt Smoking Tobacco vaping

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