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Baltimore County News

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Date: Oct 8, 2019

James R. Benjamin, Jr., Joins Leadership Team

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski today announced that James R. Benjamin, Jr., will join his leadership team as County Attorney.

Current County Attorney Michael Field has been named Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the County Executive.

"James brings a wealth of experience in litigation, deep knowledge in a variety of areas relevant to local government, and has been a trusted advisor to small, minority and women-owned businesses. I'm honored that an attorney and community leader of his caliber is joining our team," Olszewski said.

"Mike Field has a remarkable grasp of the law and public policy, and a tireless commitment to social justice. I'm pleased that he will continue as a part of our team as he shifts into a different role, advising on legislation and policy," Olszewski said.

Benjamin is currently a member of the Business, Litigation and EMERGE Teams at Gordon Feinblatt LLC. He handles environmental and administrative matters for his clients and regularly counsels clients on state and local regulatory issues. He has substantial bench and jury trial experience and has represented clients in complex toxic tort litigation at both the trial and appellate levels. In addition, he has significant experience representing and advising small, minority-owned and women-owned businesses on certification and procurement matters, as well as in structuring and creating joint ventures and teaming arrangements.

Benjamin was a former law clerk for the Honorable Ellen M. Heller in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. He also served as an Assistant City Solicitor with the Baltimore City Law Department's Land Use and Litigation divisions where he handled complex legal matters involving constitutional law and exhaustion of administrative remedies. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Benjamin dedicates significant time to community and civic engagement, serving as a member of the Board of Visitors of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the University of Maryland College Park's College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. He serves on the Judge Alexander Williams Center for Education, Justice and Ethics Board of Directors, and on the board of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland. He previously co-chaired Baltimore City's Working Group on the Use and Implementation of Body-Worn Cameras in 2014 and 2015, and was a member of the Baltimore County Charter Review Commission in 2016 and 2017. He has also served on the Maryland State Ethics Commission.

Mike Field has served as County Attorney since 2010. He first joined the Baltimore County Office of Law in 1997 to conduct the decennial Code Revision, and subsequently redesigned and rewrote the County Code. He has served as counsel to the Ethics Commission, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Animal Hearing Board.

Field has drafted every major piece of legislation introduced by any county executive since 2005, and has been involved in the drafting of many county regulations. As Senior Policy Advisor, Field will continue to advise on and draft legislation, as well as oversee efforts to put the complete Code of Baltimore County Regulations online for the first time.

Field is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Benjamin's appointment as County Attorney must be approved by the County Council.


Public Health Initiative Expands Law to Dangerous Vaping Products

In a critical public health victory, the Baltimore County Council today voted to approve County Executive Johnny Olszewski’s proposal to increase the legal age for tobacco product sales in Baltimore County from eighteen to twenty-one years of age and to expand the law to include all electronic smoking devices (ESD), component parts and accessories, otherwise known as vaping products.

While Maryland recently raised age of sale for tobacco products, including vaping products, to twenty-one, legislation was necessary to empower the Baltimore County Department of Health (DOH) to enforce the new requirements. Baltimore County is the first major jurisdiction to pass this proposal.

Tobacco Use Is a Public Health Crisis

“Youth tobacco use is a public health crisis and we must do everything we can to help protect the health and safety of Baltimore County’s young people,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “This new law will empower Baltimore County to take action now to help prevent young people from the harmful effects of smoking.”

Since 2015, the Baltimore County Department of Health has overseen the Tobacco Enforcement Program, which ensures that retailers do not sell tobacco products to underage persons by conducting compliance checks of the county’s tobacco licensees and by issuing citations to outlets that sell to underage youth.

In Fiscal Year 2019, more than 3,000 checks were conducted at County retail outlets.

The Tobacco Enforcement Program has been successful in reducing the rate of tobacco sales to youth under eighteen in Baltimore County. In just four years of operation, the retailer violation rate decreased from 54.7 percent in Fiscal Year 2015 to 0 percent in Fiscal Year 2019.

Enforcement

Continued enforcement, paired with the new increased legal age and inclusion of vaping products during compliance checks, will make it more difficult for youth and young adults to purchase these products.

“Smoking and vaping equals death,” said Gregory Wm. Branch, M.D., MBA, CPE, FACP, Health Officer and Director, Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services. “I am so glad that the Council approved the increase from age eighteen to twenty-one. Many lives will be saved.”

Statistics

National data show that approximately ninety-five percent of adult smokers begin smoking before the age of twenty-one. The Surgeon General has stated that vaping among underage youth is an epidemic. Vaping is now the most popular form of tobacco use among youth.

The percentage of Baltimore County high school students who use any tobacco or vaping product is about twenty-four percent. The percentage of high school students who have ever used a vaping product is nearly forty percent. Over fifty-two percent of Baltimore County high school students  eighteen or older have used a vaping product.

These rates, as well as the rates throughout the country, are staggering and deserve immediate attention, especially now that hundreds of vaping-associated lung illnesses have been reported throughout the country.


 
 
Revised September 11, 2017