NEWS RELEASE
Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.


November 27, 2001 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357

ATTORNEY GENERAL, LOCAL OFFICIALS WARN TOBACCO RETAILERS NOT TO SELL TO MINORS

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. today joined with county officials from throughout Maryland to announce a new crackdown on Maryland retailers selling tobacco products to minors. The statewide initiative involves the distribution of Curran’s Tobacco Retailer’s Guide to Reducing Youth Access to Tobacco Products to all 7,000 tobacco retailers in Maryland, with the exception of Anne Arundel County, where retailers will receive that County’s version of the educational materials.

The Guide sets forth the law prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to those under 18 years of age and details the criminal penalties–from $300 to $3,000 per violation–for selling cigarettes to minors. "We need the cooperation of the retailers to reduce youth access to cigarettes," Curran said. "However, we are putting tobacco retailers on notice: if you sell cigarettes to minors, we will come after you."

The Attorney General stated that any retailer selling tobacco products to minors could be subject to civil and criminal sanctions depending upon where the violation occurs. He made the announcement in Montgomery County where, along with Howard County, civil laws and penalties exist. With a 95 percent compliance rate among retailers, Montgomery County boasts the highest rate in Maryland among the leaders nationwide.

Citing a compliance check involving 42 purchase attempts by minors in three Maryland jurisdictions earlier this year, Curran noted that the children were able to buy cigarettes in 62 percent of the attempts. "While recent statistics tell us that fewer kids are smoking, the reality is that kids are still smoking and that they are only able to do so because they are able to buy cigarettes."

Curran’s Office received commitments by officials in each Maryland county and Baltimore City to join in this initiative. Each tobacco retailer will receive a joint letter from the Attorney General and the County Executive/County Commissioners stating their unified effort to combat the issue of youth access to tobacco and asking for the retailer’s cooperation.

"To reduce youth smoking, we must stop the sale of cigarettes to kids," Curran said. "And to do that, we must educate retailers and encourage them to join the fight against youth smoking. Partnering with county officials interested in reducing youth access to tobacco will enhance the message we are sending to retailers and to kids."

Eliminating youth smoking may be the key to massive reductions in tobacco-related illness and death as most adult smokers–almost 90 percent–began smoking before the age of 18. Each year in Maryland, kids purchase and consume more than 12 million packs of cigarettes. If past trends are allowed to continue, approximately 13,000 Maryland kids will become new, regular daily smokers this year. Comprehensive measures to reduce adult smoking, particularly among parents, combined with strong youth smoking prevention programs, including retailer education, should stop the deadly trend.

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