Maryland May Raise Smoking Age to 21, Limit Vape Marketing



ANNAPOLIS (March 15, 2019)—Several bills in the Maryland General Assembly could raise the age to purchase tobacco and vape products from 18 to 21 as well as prohibit certain types of "vape" packaging that target minors.

Usage of electronic nicotine delivery systems—known as vapes—has increased among among high school students nationwide from over 11 percent in 2017 to nearly 21 percent in 2018, according to the United States Surgeon General.

In addition to raising the legal age, House bill 1169—sponsored by Delegate Dereck E. Davis, D-Prince George's—would change the definition of tobacco products to include vapor devices, parts and juices.

Nearly 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers had tried smoking by the age of 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This bill is intended to prevent more minors from trying cigarettes before they are of legal age, Davis said.

"The information about smoking is irrefutable. You can drink responsibly, you can gamble responsibly but you can't smoke responsibly," Davis said. "Those are carcinogens and anything else is just hype," he said.

Another bill would prohibit the sale of vape products that feature cartoons, teen celebrities or the likeness of a person who appears to be younger than 27 on their packaging. Sponsored by Delegate Ned Carey, D-Anne Arundel, House bill 1185 would also require products to be sold in child-safe, tamper-evident packaging.

This bill was proposed by members of the vapor industry as a means of self-regulation, Carey said.

Lawmakers and industry professionals have criticized certain types of vape packaging as marketing targeted at minors. Various vape juices emulate the flavors of candies and breakfast cereals, and their labeling often bears a striking resemblance to their edible counterparts, according to Vapor Technology Association representative Rob Garagiola.

"There should not be Cocoa Puffs or Tony the Tiger-type marketing," Garagiola said.

This bill would also require retailers to keep all vape products behind the counter and display signs that prohibit minors, as well as increase the maximum fine for the sale of these products to a minor from $1,000 to $2,500 for a second offense within two years of the first, according to Garagiola.

"Vape shops and vape shop owners like myself are in this business to get people off combustible cigarettes," Maryland Vapor Alliance member Mary Yaeger said. "I don't want (vapes) in the hands of children, not my grandchildren, not my friends' children, not my own children," she said.

Both measures have corresponding legislation in the Maryland Senate. On Thursday, Senate bill 708 was heard by a Senate committee; Senate bill 895 advanced with amendments in the chamber. House bills 1169 and 1185 were heard by a House of Delegates committee Feb. 27.

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