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Keyword: smoking

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.”

Enforcement Works

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.

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Topics Include Snow Operations, Quitting Smoking and the County's Legislative and Budget Priorities in Annapolis

The January edition of Baltimore County’s half-hour cable television public affairs show, “Hello Baltimore County,” highlights the following topics:

  • Winter Storm Operations – Get the perspective from behind the snowplow from two of Baltimore County’s Snowfighters.
        
  • 2016 General Assembly Priorities – Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz details the County’s legislative and budget priorities for this year’s legislative session in Annapolis.
       
  • Get Help to Quit Smoking – Baltimore County’s Health Department has resources to help you quit – for good!

To view streaming video of the show, go to the Hello Baltimore County page.

In addition to online access, the program runs several times per week on Cable Channel 25, in Baltimore County, at the following times:

  • Mondays: 1:30 p.m., 6 p.m.
  • Tuesdays: Noon, 9 p.m.
  • Wednesdays: 11 a.m., 4 p.m., 10 p.m.
  • Thursdays: 1 p.m., 8 p.m.
  • Fridays: 11 a.m., 6 p.m.
  • Saturdays: 10 a.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m.
  • Sundays: 10 a.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m.

Kamenetz Applauds Success of Strict Enforcement Measures

The selling of tobacco products to minors in Baltimore County has been dramatically reduced due to the diligent work of the Baltimore County Department of Health.

According to Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene data in 2014, over half of Baltimore County retailers sold tobacco products to minors, more than any other jurisdiction in the State. In 2015, that number has been reduced to 15 percent.

“Most smokers begin the habit as teens. Preventing teenagers from unlawfully purchasing cigarettes will have positive, long-term health implications,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “I applaud Dr. Branch and his team for their hard work that is being met with real success.”

To achieve the reduction in sales to minors, the Department aggressively increased enforcement operations by employing students under the age of 18 to attempt to purchase cigarettes at over 700 of the County’s tobacco retailers. To date, the Department has performed over 3,900 attempted youth purchases. These youth are under the supervision of Health Enforcement Officers, some of whom are retired public safety personnel. Pairing the teen with an adult supervisor ensures that the teen will never have to testify in a case. Considering this an extremely important investment in the health of our County, the Administration has made a commitment to fund the majority of enforcement activities with County resources. 

Economic Incentives Removed

Additionally, this past summer the County redirected its focus to remove economic incentives of selling tobacco to minors by passing 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 starting with a warning, followed by a $500 fine, with subsequent fines of $1,000 and $1,500 upon continued non-compliance. Also, after the second offense, the County now refers these repeat offenders to the State Comptroller’s office so that their license to sell tobacco products may be suspended or revoked. Thus far, the County has made over 65 referrals to the Comptroller and has been the only county in the State to take advantage of this opportunity. The Comptroller has held 20 hearings thus far and these repeat offender retailers are receiving suspensions of their tobacco licenses for five to 10 days. The other 45 cases are pending and have not yet been scheduled.

“We are making great strides in the County to keep our kids from developing a lifelong addiction to nicotine,” said Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch. “Nearly all smokers in Maryland begin tobacco use when they are under the age of 18 so eliminating access to this deadly product is key.”

Information

For information on tobacco cessation resources, call the Baltimore County Department of Health’s Tobacco Use Prevention Program at 410-887-3828.


 
 
Revised September 26, 2016