National Tobacco 21 Legislation

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.

Store clerk behind counter
Information for 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.

How to comply with the 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
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. 

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.

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.
Smoking Violation Form

Please fill in the form below and a report will be sent to the Howard County Department of Police. The establishment or location that you have reported being in violation will be added to a "Watch List" that is distributed to a network of County field agencies who routinely regulate various aspects of public establishments.  

Health & Medical

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