Tobacco Sales Enforcement Program

The New National Law Raises Age for Sales of Tobacco and Electronic Smoking Devices to 2119MDH045_T21_Poster_r2


On Dec. 20, 2019, the President of the United States signed legislation amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, raising the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years. It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product—including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes—to anyone under 21.  There is NO MILITARY EXEMPTION and no grandfathering clause.

For information and resources about quitting, visit the Maryland Quitline webpage at

If you have interest in quitting smoking (of any kind), the Health Department can help.  Call us at 410-313-6265 or visit our webpage here.

For Retailers

Tobacco Retailer Postcard T21 9.14.2020_Page_1

As of October 1, 2019, selling, distributing or offering to sell tobacco products to anyone under 21 is illegal. You are responsible for upholding the law. Compliance checks will be conducted and enforced on a continuous basis to ensure your store is following federal, state and local laws that prohibit the sale of tobacco to any person under the age of 21. If you are found guilty of selling any tobacco product, including vapes, to anyone under the age of 21, federal fines are in excess of $10,000 and you could even lose your license to sell tobacco. View a postcard with more information here.


How to comply with the new law:
  1. Post an age of sale sign (compliant with the new law)
  2. Use a driver’s license or government-issued ID to verify customer age
  3. Train all staff on tobacco sales procedures and policies:
    • Ask for valid photo ID from everyone under 27
    • Check to make sure everyone is at least 21.
    • Refuse to sell tobacco and e-cigarette products to everyone under 21

For free online training, additional materials, and FAQs, visit

Howard County Tobacco 21 Violations and Penalties: 
Sale or distribution of a tobacco product, including Electronic Smoking Devices (ESDs) to anyone under the age of 21: The licensee/owner, not the clerk, may be subject to a civil penalty in violation of Howard County Code of Ordinance 12.1301(a) up to: 
  • $500 for a first violation; 
  • $1,000 for a second violation or each subsequent violation occurring within two years of the first violation.

To sell tobacco products in Maryland, you must have a license. The type of license required depends on the tobacco products being sold. Licenses must be clearly displayed in the business. Licenses must be renewed each year. 

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Flavored Cigarettes/E-Cigarettes 

The sale of flavored cigarettes (NOT menthol) is illegal under federal law, and is subject to action by the FDA. In addition, the sale of clove cigarettes is illegal in Maryland and can result in a fine of $500. 

Effective 2/10/20, Maryland Wholesalers and Retailers who sell Electronic smoking Devices (ESDs) must cease all sales and marketing of cartridge-based and disposable ESD products containing flavors other than tobacco or menthol. Find more information about the FDA flavored e-cigarette ban here.

Packaging & Promotions 
  • Cigarettes may only be sold in packages of at least 20.
  • Sale or distribution of unpackaged cigarettes is illegal and can result in a fine of $500 and up to three months imprisonment.
  • Retailers may not distribute free samples of tobacco products or offer gifts with the purchase of tobacco products. This includes coupons or credits on any product other than tobacco.
  • Smokeless tobacco may be sold only as packaged by the manufacturer.