Counties Seek To Reverse Court Decision Dictating Tobacco Laws

MACo Policy Associate Drew Jabin yesterday testified before the Senate Finance Committee to support SB 410 Cigarettes, Other Tobacco Products, and Electronic Smoking Devices – Local Law Authorization. This bill reverses a Maryland Court of Appeals Decision, thus allowing local governments the autonomy to enforce and enact their own laws regulating tobacco products.

From the MACo Testimony:

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, and most pervasive, interpretation of the ruling in Altadis v. Prince George’s County is that local governments may not regulate the packaging, sale, and distribution of tobacco products, including cigars, as State law has occupied that field.

Without ever passing a law that actually states that local governments are preempted in this field, the State has effectively created this as its policy. This “implied preemption” has denied communities a tool to respond to local problems, and to go beyond the floor set by the statewide laws enacted by the General Assembly.

SB 410 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.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2021 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.