Baltimore County News
Department of Health enforcement efforts continue to make significant impact
Today, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch announced that for the second year in a row, the selling of tobacco products to minors in Baltimore County has been significantly reduced due to the diligent work of the Baltimore County Department of Health. According to 2014 data from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, over half of Baltimore County retailers they visited sold tobacco products to minors, more than any other jurisdiction in the State. In 2016, that number has been reduced to 1.25 percent according to a report just released by the State.
“Thanks to good government in action, and our commitment to funding this important initiative, we have made an amazing turnaround in keeping teenagers from being able to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products here in Baltimore County, and that goes a long way toward preventing unhealthy habits with lifelong consequences,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
“The reduction in tobacco sales to minors in Baltimore County is yet another testament to public health being on the job,” said Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch. “With the help of our dedicated tobacco enforcement teams, we are sending a loud message that we value our youth’s health and will stop at nothing to prevent them from gaining access to tobacco products.”
To achieve the reduction in sales to minors, the Health Department has continued to aggressively increase enforcement operations with the use of students under the age of 18 to perform sting operations. These youth are under the supervision of Health Enforcement Officers, some of whom are retired public safety personnel. In 2016, the department conducted 4,128 sting operations on over 800 of the County’s tobacco retailers.
In 2015, the County passed legislation to impose increased financial penalties for retailers who violate the sale to minors law and also includes the potential suspension of a tobacco license for repeat offenders. Those selling cigarettes to minors face a series of enforcement actions; the first offense results in a warning, the second offense is a $500 fine and the third offense results in a $1,000 fine. The County also refers repeat offenders to the State Comptroller’s office so that their license to sell cigarettes may be reviewed.
“The County Council is committed to continuing this very positive trend and we are grateful for Dr. Branch and the Health Department staff who have worked extremely hard enforcing our tobacco laws,” said Baltimore County Council Chair Tom Quirk.
Since the County began the aggressive enforcement efforts in the spring of 2015, it has made 274 referrals to the Comptroller’s Office, which includes over 207 tobacco retailers – a quarter of the County’s retailers. The Comptroller’s reviews have resulted in 87 reprimands and 42 suspensions of tobacco licenses to date.
"We commend Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and his team for all they have done to virtually eliminate tobacco sales to young people in Baltimore County," said Vincent DeMarco, President of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative. "We hope every county in Maryland will follow their lead to save young people from the horrors of tobacco addiction."
Risks of teen tobacco use
“The American Heart Association applauds Baltimore County’s spectacular success in reducing youth access to tobacco products,” said Michaeline Fedder, Director of Government Relations. “90 percent of addicted smokers start before age 19 and adolescents become addicted to nicotine more quickly than adults. They are also twice as sensitive to tobacco advertising which is why, annually, the tobacco industry spends $127.5 million in Maryland alone marketing its products to kids. And, finally, researchers have concluded that early signs of heart disease and stroke are found in young people who smoke.”
“According to the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control report, in Maryland the high school smoking rate is 8.7 percent, 27.6 percent of high school students use tobacco products and an estimated 90 percent of adult smokers begin smoking during their teenage years,” said Deborah P. Brown, President and CEO, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. “The American Lung Association in Maryland applauds Baltimore County’s law enforcement officials for their success in reducing tobacco sales to minors by retailers. The work that they’re doing is lifesaving.”
“Age of sale laws must be strictly enforced to ensure a high rate of compliance,” said Bonita Pennino, Maryland’s Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “The work of the Baltimore County Department of Health over the last couple of years clearly shows that they understand the importance of holding tobacco retailers accountable for ensuring tobacco products stay out of the hands of our youth.”
For information on the Baltimore County Department of Health’s Tobacco Use Prevention Program and quit smoking classes, call at 410-887-3828.
Trash and Recycling Collection Normal, Drop-off Facilities Open
Baltimore County government offices, and the District and Circuit Courts, will be closed two days next week, Tuesday, November 8 for Election Day and Friday, November 11 in recognition of Veterans Day. Health Department clinics, and senior centers will be closed, and CountyRide vans will not operate. Libraries will be open, parking meters must be fed and Baltimore County Revenue Authority parking garages will be open as usual.
Trash and recyclables will be collected according to the normal schedule. The County’s trash and recycling drop-off facilities will be open. Residents can log onto www.baltimorecountymd.gov/solidwaste for more information about recycling and trash collection, including schedules and drop-off center locations and hours. Residents may also call the Bureau of Solid Waste Management at 410-887-2000.
Seeking to strengthen families with evidenced-based, home visiting program
Yesterday, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Director of Health and Human Services Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch and Abilities Network Director of Program Development Tomeaka Jupiter announced the planned expansion of the Healthy Families Baltimore County. This program is designed to promote child well-being, support positive parenting practices and strengthen family functioning. The expansion proposal is pending Council approval.
Healthy Families Baltimore County, which utilizes the Healthy Families America model, is an evidence-based, home visiting program that optimizes child health and development. Eligible families are referred to the program by the Baltimore County Department of Health, local hospitals, community service agencies and self-referral. Healthy Families works to engage families as early as the mother’s first trimester of pregnancy, and sustains support through the child’s fifth birthday.
“I am grateful for Abilities Network and the work they have been doing to strengthen families for over a decade,” said Kamenetz. “My administration and I are committed to the well-being and equal opportunity of all families in Baltimore County, and are excited about the increased number of families this program will impact.”
The Abilities Network is the County’s vendor for delivering the Healthy Families Baltimore County program, which has been fully accredited by Healthy Families America since 2004. Over 600 families primarily on the east side of the County, have participated in the program since its inception in 1999. With an operating budget of approximately $800,000 from federal, state, and local government funding, the program was enhanced over the last few years to include a Baltimore County Department of Health public health nurse that works in tandem with an Abilities Network family support worker.
The public health nurse has specific roles to include monitoring the health of the mother during pregnancy; providing health education; addressing health factors for the mother-to-be; assisting the family with linkage to resources such as WIC, substance use disorder treatment, behavioral health programs if needed and support services through other agencies. Together the public health nurse and family support worker collaborate as a team to assist the mother with education regarding infant care and safety, nutrition, child development, positive parenting practices, breastfeeding support and reproductive health issues and planning.
“We have the unique opportunity to partner with parents early in their child’s life by providing voluntary, comprehensive, long-term support services right in their home,” said Tomeaka Jupiter. “For many families, this is exactly what is needed for them to achieve the positive outcomes they want for themselves and their children.”
Reducing infant mortality by expanding Healthy Families
Maryland’s infant mortality rates have consistently been higher than the national rate. Both race and socioeconomic status impact the rates. Most recent data released by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) in 2015 placed Baltimore County’s overall mortality rate for black infants at 9.8 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to a rate of 4.7 deaths for white infants. According to DHMH for the period from 2011 through 2015, the average black infant mortality rate was 11 per 1,000 live births compared to an average white mortality rate of 4.1.
“Expanding the Healthy Families Baltimore County program is a vital strategy in reducing the infant mortality rate in our County,” stated Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch. “I believe that a program like this gives our families and babies a fighting chance to live, grow and succeed.”
To expand the program, $386,775 from the County’s general fund is being requested. The County’s Local Management Board will allocate up to $120,000 in grant funding towards the countywide program expansion. The bulk of this funding will be dedicated to Abilities Network to increase program capacity. The additional funding will also support the hiring of a second public health nurse who will work in collaboration with Healthy Families Baltimore County.
During this fiscal year, the Healthy Families Baltimore County program is slated to serve 109 families. Pending approval from the Baltimore County Council, the program will be able to serve up to 75 additional families.
For more information about the Healthy Families Baltimore County or to see if you are eligible for the program, call the Abilities Network at 410-828-7700 1228 or send an email to email@example.com.