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The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) is reaching out to more than 4,000 randomly selected licensed tobacco retailers across the state to help them prepare for a change in the legal sales age for tobacco products. Starting Oct. 1, 2019, Maryland will join 17 other states and more than 485 cities and counties across the nation in increasing the minimum legal sales age to 21 for all tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices such as e-cigarettes, vapes, pod-based devices and e-liquids.

This change in the law comes as Maryland, as well as 37 other states, is dealing with an outbreak of severe lung illnesses associated with vaping. As of Sept. 24, there were 20 such cases reported in Maryland. In addition to providing educational materials, MDH is surveying retailers to seek input on what additional resources they need to assist them with today’s rapidly changing tobacco landscape.

“We want to help tobacco retailers comply with the new law,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “They play a critical role in creating a healthier Maryland by keeping tobacco products out of the hands of Maryland youth.”

Earlier this month, MDH launched the statewide campaign, “21 or none.” New materials including “minimum age of sale” signs – compliant with the law – and a toolkit to train staff on new procedures for checking ID are available for download on MDH’s Responsible Tobacco Retailer website, www.NoTobaccoSalesToMinors.com.