Federal and State Tobacco 21 Law Fact Sheet


Information on Maryland and Federal Tobacco 21 Law

What is Tobacco 21?

  • Tobacco 21 refers to the national movement in which local and state governments passed laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices, to those under age 21 (increased from 18). Maryland joined this public health effort during the 2019 Legislative Session, when the General Assembly passed HB1169, prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to those under the age of 21. The law became effective on October 1, 2019.
  • On December 20, 2019, the United States President signed legislation amending the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, raising the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years. Tobacco 21 is now the law throughout the U.S.

Reasons Tobacco 21 Will Make a Difference

  • Nearly all (94 percent) adult smokers had their first cigarette before turning 21 and most (81 percent) before age 18.
  • Smokers age 18 and 19 years old are often suppliers for younger kids who rely on friends, classmates and peers to buy tobacco products. Since students do not typically reach 21 years old while still in high school, increasing the age of sale would greatly reduce the number of high school students who could purchase tobacco products.
  • Increasing the sales age for tobacco products to 21 will help counter the tobacco industry’s efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking.
  • A national sales age of 21 for alcohol sales resulted in reduced alcohol consumption among youth, decreased alcohol dependence and has led to a dramatic reduction in drunk driving fatalities. It is predicted that raising the national sales age for tobacco products will have similar effects.

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