March 19, 2019

Senate Moves Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

In a 35-11 Monday evening vote, the Maryland Senate passed legislation that would increase the legal age to purchase tobacco in Maryland from 18 to 21. The legislation (Senate Bill 895) is sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Delores Kelley (District 10 – Baltimore County).

Advocates for the legislation, including the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and the American Cancer Society, cited numerous factors in their support of the age change. The facts cited were startling. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 80% of all adult smokers began smoking by age 18 and 90% did so before the age of 20. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that cigarette smoking accounts for more than 480,000 deaths in the United States on an annual basis including 90% of all lung cancer deaths and 80% of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

If ultimately successful, Maryland would join seven states including California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Virginia in increasing its tobacco purchase age. In addition to those seven states numerous cities including Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, Boston, San Antonio, Cleveland, and Minneapolis have also enacted similar measures.

Chairwoman Kelley is joined in co-sponsorship of Senate Bill 895 by six of her Senate colleagues including Senators Augustine (District 47 – Prince George’s County), Beidle (District 32 – Anne Arundel County), Benson (District 24 – Prince George’s County), Feldman (District 15 – Montgomery County), Hayes (District 40 – Baltimore City), and Kramer (District 19 – Montgomery County).

Kelley’s bill is cross-filed in the House of Delegates as House Bill 1169 and is sponsored by Economic Matters Committee Chairman Dereck Davis (District 25 – Prince George’s County). Similarly House Bill 1169 passed the House of Delegates on Monday by a wide margin (100-39).

Both Senate Bill 895 and House Bill 1169 now await consideration in their respective opposite chambers (the Senate Bill in the House and vice versa). No hearing information is available for either bill at this time. All legislation must successfully pass both the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates by Sine Die on Monday, April 8thto be sent to Governor Hogan to be approved or vetoed.