Anne Arundel County tobacco sting finds one in four stores sold tobacco to minors

| October 13, 2017
Rams Head
Tobacco sting operations were recently conducted in partnership with the Anne Arundel County Department of Health and local law enforcement, including Anne Arundel County Police, Anne Arundel County Sheriff’s Office and the Annapolis City Police. From January 1 to June 30, 2017, nearly 260 merchants were approached. The majority of retailers refused to sell tobacco to minors; however, 60 stores (23 percent) sold tobacco products illegally to minors, as witnessed by law enforcement.
 
A new Maryland law taking effect October 1, 2017, authorizes law enforcement personnel to issue civil citations (instead of criminal) to retailers caught selling tobacco products or e-cigarettes to minors. Selling tobacco products or e-cigarettes to anyone under 18 is illegal. Store owners and employees can receive citations and be fined.
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The Maryland Department of Health has provided a $100,000 grant to support the local partnership and help reduce the availability of tobacco products to youth.
 
“With the joint efforts of local law enforcement and Department of Health personnel, we can bring the percentage of illegal sales from 23 percent to zero,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steven Schuh.
 
While law enforcement agencies conduct checks to ensure compliance with State laws, the Department of Health’s Learn To Live Program offers a free Tobacco Sales Compliance Kit to all
County tobacco merchants. The kit, which includes a training card and other educational materials in English and Spanish, helps teach merchants and their employees how not to make sales to minors. Merchants and their employees can order the free Tobacco Sales Compliance Kits from the Department of Health’s Learn To Live Line at 410-222-7979 or download the kits from LearnToLiveHealthy.org in the “Tobacco Sales Training” section.
 
In Anne Arundel County, data shows that smoking teens are four times more likely to drink alcohol, six times more likely to use marijuana, nine times more likely to abuse prescription drugs and six times more likely to use other illegal drugs when compared to nonsmoking high
school teens. (2014 Maryland Youth Tobacco and Risk Behavior Survey, Maryland Department of Health, formerly Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene)
 
“We must get tobacco products out of the hands of teens,” said Acting County Health Officer Frances Phillips, R.N., M.H.A. “Issuing citations to store owners sends the message that our county wants to prevent the risk of young people becoming casualties in the drug epidemic.”
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