Tobacco Sales Enforcement Program to Prevent Youth Access to Tobacco

In July 1992, Congress enacted the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act which includes an amendment aimed at decreasing youth access to tobacco. This amendment, named for its sponsor, Congressman Mike Synar of Oklahoma, requires states (and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and six Pacific jurisdictions) to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to those under the age of 18. States must comply with the Synar Amendment in order to receive their full Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant awards. 

The Synar Amendment was developed because of a growing body of evidence about the health problems related to tobacco use by youth, and by evidence about how easy youth could purchase tobacco products from retail stores. 

Prevent Youth Access to Tobacco:

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 The Law in Maryland
  • No tobacco product can be sold to anyone under 18 years old. It’s the law! 
  • Cashiers must check the ID of anyone under 27 years old who is buying tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. 
  • Cashiers and vendors who break the law are fined and can be sent to the State Comptroller for disciplinary action.
  • The State Comptroller can suspend and revoke tobacco licenses.

Maryland Identification Cards/Driver's Licenses

    Sample Maryland Drivers License
  • Maryland IDs of those under age 21 are vertically oriented, rather than horizontally oriented. 
  • For those under age 18 the ID also shows in bold red type the date until which the individual is under 18.
  • Other acceptable forms of identification include military identification cards, passports, and immigration cards.

Howard County Fines

  • Owners – fines of $250 to $500 for first violation and $500 to $1,000 for subsequent violations within one year of a prior violation. 
  • Employees – fines of $50 to $100 for first violation and $100 to $250 for subsequent violations within one year of a prior 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. 

CIgarette Salesman-iStock_web

Important: A tobacco license may be suspended or revoked if law enforcement or health officials determine that a retailer sold tobacco products to customers under the age of 18. Store owners and sales personnel may also be subject to the criminal penalties for tobacco sales to minors. 
Maryland law prohibits the sale of tobacco products, including tobacco paraphernalia and electronic nicotine devices (e-cigarettes), to anyone under the age of 18. The sale of e-cigarettes to a minor is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up $1,000. The sale of tobacco products to a minor is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by: 

  • 1st offense: Fine of up to $300 
  • 2nd offense: Fine of up to $1,000 
  • Additional offenses: Fine of up to $3,000 if within 24 months of a prior violation.

In addition to State criminal law, there are other civil prohibitions and fines for tobacco sales to minors

Flavored 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. 

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 3 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.

Statistics in Maryland

  • In October 2012-September 2013, 24 percent of Maryland tobacco retailers sold cigarettes youth.
  • In May-September 2014, the rate increased to 31.9 percent, according to the Department of Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH).
  • Only two states in the nation had rates higher than Maryland.
Talk With Your Children
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