STEVENSVILLE — With the Tobacco 21 law raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 on Oct. 1, the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office recently held a training session for retailers.
The Oct. 2 session at Cult Classic Brewery Company included a presentation by First Sgt. Sonny Jones, assistant patrol commander for the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office, on the new T21 law and the procedures and penalties for tobacco retailers and vape shops.
The only exemptions to the new age limit are those who are active duty military, at least 18 years old, who are in possession of a valid military identification card. The Common Access Card is valid military identification.
“With the changes in the law, the focus has shifted greatly on the retailer in the prevention of underage tobacco use,” said Jones. “It’s important to educate retailers on the details of the new law and give them the tools to do their job as a responsible retailer for those products. The store clerk was initially responsible, but now the owner is whether they are present or not.”
Businesses can be fined $300 for the first offense and, according to Jones, law enforcement expects to deal with a spike in underage customers trying to obtain tobacco and vaping products illegally.
Jones added those efforts will be curbed by educating retailers on techniques underage customers use to get illegal products.
“Such tactics include fake identification and having a legal-aged customer purchase it for them. We’ll work with retailers to identify that and law enforcement will tailor their approach to deal with that accordingly,” said Jones.
The law also impacts the sale of vaping products and parts for vaping pens aside from the flavor juices used.
The state defines an electronic smoking device as “a tobacco product and includes electronic cigarettes, electronic cigars, electronic cigarillos, electronic pipes, electronic hookah, vape pens, pod devices such as JUUL, vaping liquid and any component, part, or accessory of such a device, regardless of whether it is sold separately, including any substance intended to be aerosolized or vaporized during use of the device.”
“This is like going through alcohol classes if you’re a bartender,” Keith Hutchins, owner of Vape Bird, which has locations in Centreville and Stevensville. “This is event is very important to every retailer. I’m surprised many retailers support the new law, but it’s a good thing to keep tobacco out of the hands of underage customers.”
Information on the new law can be found at www.health.maryland.gov/notobaccosalestominors.