Local Governments Seek Ability to Regulate Tobacco Products

MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson testified in support of HB 1485, Other Tobacco Products – Local Laws for Sale and Distribution – Intent of the General Assembly, to the House Economic Matters Committee on March 2, 2016.

This bill would reverse a Maryland Court of Appeals decision that preempts local tobacco regulation.

In 2013, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that a Prince George’s County ordinance regulating the size of cigar packs was preempted by the General Assembly. The broad interpretation of the ruling in Altadis v. Prince George’s County is that the local governments may not regulate the packaging and sale of tobacco products, including cigars, as State law has occupied that field.

From the MACo testimony,

HB 1485 would allow local governments to regulate the sale and distribution of tobacco products. This is important as local governments are best situated to understand the dynamic of tobacco use and the needs of their communities.

While there are state criminal laws prohibiting tobacco sales to minors, there is no state agency that actively enforces the law. Consequently, in many jurisdictions it is up to the local health departments – to the limited extent they can under law – to enforce prohibitions preventing youth access and sales to minors.

At least 10 counties have enacted and enforce such laws. This bill would ensure all counties are in the position to protect youth and their communities.

This bill would return the proper authority to local governments to manage tobacco access concerns at the local level. MACo urges a FAVORABLE report on HB 1485.

For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.