Tobacco Retailer Education and Enforcement

The Howard County Health Department is responsible for enforcing laws that restrict youth access to tobacco. To accomplish this, the health department educates each tobacco retailer in Howard County on the current tobacco laws. Each retailer also receives at least one (1) enforcement visit by an Underage Tobacco Enforcement Investigator.

Store clerk behind counter

Tobacco 21 Law, HCHD Initiatives, and Information for Tobacco Retailers


A Message from the Health Department


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.


Howard County Tobacco 21 Law and Penalties

  • Tobacco retailers found selling or distributing 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 (2) years of the first violation.
  • A retailer's license to sell tobacco may be suspended or revoked if two (2) or more violations occur within two (2) years of each other.

Retailer Information

  • 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 and renewed every year.
  • To complete the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Licenses Application, visit the “Licenses” tab on the Maryland Tobacco 21 FAQ website.
  • FDA Flavored Disposable Ban

Maryland Responsible Tobacco Retailer Program 


Tobacco Retailer Education

  • The Howard County Health Department’s Tobacco Enforcement Coordinator visits each tobacco retailer in Howard County and provides the educational materials, an age calculator, and answers questions retailers have about the Tobacco 21 Law.

Enforcement Compliance Checks

  • Howard County Enforcement Officers complete random enforcement visits to tobacco retailers to confirm that Maryland retailer tobacco control laws and local tobacco laws in Howard County are being followed. The Howard County Enforcement Officer completes these checks with the assistance of an Underage Tobacco Enforcement Investigator (UTEI). UTEIs are all under the age of 21 and can provide a government issued ID confirming their age during the enforcement checks.  UTEIs are paid for their time. Every tobacco retailer in Howard County receives at least one (1) compliance check per year.
  • UTEI recruitment is open August 1st – September 1st.
  • For more information and/or to complete the UTEI application, click here.

Report a Tobacco Retailer Violation

  • Please complete the “Smoking Violation Report Form” below if you have knowledge that a tobacco retailer in Howard County is or has violated the Tobacco 21 law. The report will be sent to the Howard County Department of Police. The establishment or locations that you have reported being in violation will be added to the “Watch List” that is distributed to a network of County field agencies who routinely regulate various aspects of public establishments.

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