From the Harford County Health Department:
As a result of recent compliance checks coordinated by the Harford County Health Department (HCHD) in collaboration with the Harford County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), six Harford County tobacco retailers were cited for selling tobacco products to youth under the age of eighteen.
Referencing recent news releases from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and numerous advertising campaigns throughout the state including those in this county, HCHD Cigarette Restitution Fund Tobacco Program Coordinator Bill Wiseman reports there is a disturbing increase in the frequency and number of illegal sales of tobacco products to minors in Maryland. “In Harford where tobacco use rates by young people are higher than the State average, we are informing tobacco vendors about the laws while also patrolling stores in an effort to enforce state and federal tobacco retail laws.”
In limited operations during May and June 2015, the HCSO conducted tobacco retail compliance inspections at a total of 59 licensed tobacco vendors throughout the County. Of that number, criminal citations were issued at the following six locations:
– Walgreens at 2016 Rock Spring Road in Forest Hill
– Rite Aid at 606 Hoagie Drive in Forest Hill
– 7 Eleven at 1818 Emmorton Road in Bel Air
– Royal Farms Store #170 at 2201 Jack Lane in Bel Air
– Highs Store #86 at 3711 Federal Hill Road in Jarrettsville
– Wawa #582 at 2300 Churchville Road in Bel Air
The enforcement activity accompanies an intensive store-by-store educational outreach in recent months to every one of the more than 200 tobacco retailers in Harford by the Health Department in partnership with a number of community-based organizations. Two billboards prominently posted along Route 1 in Bel Air and on Pulaski Highway near Rt. 543 also serve as a public call to action. States Wiseman, “The sale of tobacco in any form, e-cigarette or vaping product to anyone under 18 years of age breaks federal and state laws. We want and need the public’s help in reporting any suspicious activity to us.
Harford’s three leading causes of death . . . cancer, other diseases of the lung and heart disease, all are related to smoking and other tobacco use. The health of the next generation is at stake and restricting youth access to tobacco is just another part of the solution.”
According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, every day more than 1,300 people die in the United States due to smoking. Nearly 90 percent of smokers start before the age of 18 and 5.6 million children alive today will ultimately die early from smoking if more is not done to reduce current smoking rates. Tobacco use among youth increases the likelihood for lifetime nicotine dependence, loss of income, and premature death. There is also increased risk for lung cancer, oral cancer, bladder cancer, chronic lung disease, heart disease, and increased infant mortality.
Most tobacco retailers remain compliant with laws requiring checking IDs of anyone appearing to be under the age of 27 and refusing to sell tobacco to minors but an increasing number are not. During DHMH inspections conducted randomly across Maryland from October 2012 to September 2013, nearly one in four tobacco retailers checked were found to have sold cigarettes to minors. Subsequent random inspections conducted in 2014 found noncompliance rates of almost one in three tobacco retailers.
Wiseman says the Department’s tobacco vendor education and compliance enforcement efforts will continue throughout the remainder of this year and into 2016.
The HCHD CRF Tobacco Program also conducts tobacco use awareness campaigns in schools and in the community, having provided educational presentations to almost 11,000 Harford school students in FY15, while having also educated several thousand more adults. No-cost cessation classes and nicotine replacement product also are available to those who wish to quit and are provided at a number of locations in the county.
For more information about school-based and community tobacco use awareness and education activities, help “quitting” tobacco use, or about tobacco retailer enforcement and education, contact the Harford County Health Department Public Health Education Program at 410-612-1781 or visit the Health Department website at www.harfordcountyhealth.com.