State Reports Decrease in Illegal Tobacco Sales to Minors

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) reported a 56% decrease in vendors illegally selling tobacco to minors in Federal Fiscal Year 2015. As reported in The Carroll County Times:

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducts annual random checks of tobacco retailers throughout the state in accordance with the federal Synar amendment, part of the 1992 law that set 18 as the minimum age for tobacco purchases in all 50 states. The law also mandates that states keep their noncompliance rate — the percentage of retailers found illegally selling tobacco to minors — to 20 percent or lower, or risk losing federal funding for substance abuse and mental health programs.

The most recent DHMH check — where minors are sent into retailers and ask to buy tobacco — found only 13.8 percent of Maryland tobacco vendors were noncompliant, compared with 31.4 percent in FFY2015 and 24.1 percent in FFY14, according to DHMH statistics.

While the DHMH check found no non-compliant vendors during its random checks in Carroll County, checks by the Carroll County Health Department on all vendors within the county found 28% of vendors in FY 15. As the article notes violators will face fines and referrals to the state Comptroller:

When a vendor makes a sale to a minor during a compliance check by the Health Department, the clerk who made the sale faces a $300 fine — $500 for a second offense within two years — but the violations count against the vendor, according to White.

The Health Department has yet to conduct a full-scale check of Carroll vendors in FY16, which began July 1. White said another is planned for sometime in the next few months, but it has rechecked the 42 vendors that were found in violation in March. Three of those 42 were found to have violated again.

“The ones that have had subsequent [violations], they will be referred to the [Office of the Comptroller of Maryland], who may chose to do a hearing, and they could have their license suspended,” White said. “You do have the occasional vendor that is just going to do things their way, despite getting fined several times.”

For more information read the full article in The Carroll County Times.