Concerned about the harmful effects of long-standing smoking on the African-American community, the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland is leading an effort to impose restrictions on access tobacco products. The caucus insists that Maryland join a growing number of cities and states that have increased the age required to buy tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, from 18 to 21 years old. "I think it's a long overdue bill," Del said. Dereck E. Davis (Prince George & # 39; s), Chair of the House Committee on Economic Issues and lead sponsor of the bill. "There is no reason to stay at 18". The caucus's decision to include the anti-smoking measure in its legislative priorities in 2019 follows actions taken by legislators in the New York, California, California and Massachusetts districts. response to public health warnings regarding the effects of smoking and the growing popularity of e-cigarettes. The bill also follows the recent announcement by the Food and Drug Administration to impose restrictions to ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes to under-18s and to eventually ban menthol cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. flavored cigars, particularly popular among African American teens. In Maryland, advocates have been trying for four years to legislate to raise the minimum age of buying tobacco products to 21 years. During the 2018 session, the bill was blocked in committee.
A woman smokes a "Blu" e-cigarette in the district. In 2016, the federal government banned the sale of electronic cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and hookahs under 18 years of age. (Paul J. Richards / AFP / Getty Images) The 2019 bill will be sponsored in the Senate by Senator Delores G. Kelley. (D-Baltimore County), new chair of the Senate Finance Committee. His committee and that of Davis will probably hold hearings on the bill. Kelley said that she thought the bill would be more likely to be passed because of the election last month, many younger progressive lawmakers, who might be interested in problems – such as smoking – which disproportionately affect minority and economically depressed communities. Last year, Truth Initiative, a leading non-profit tobacco control organization, launched an advertising tobacco company black and low-income neighborhoods as a matter of social justice. "Certainly a bill like this one, if it's presented on the ground, it should have a better chance," said Kelley. "We will work hard" Of the. Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George's), Chair of the Black Legislative Caucus, said this was the first year the caucus made legislation a priority. He hopes that the increase in the number of caucus members – there are four other African-American legislators – will also help move the measure forward.
Maryland lawmakers will review legislation in 2019 to increase the legal age to purchase tobacco products at age 21. (Pat Wellenbach / AP) At present, six states have banned the sale of cigarettes to people under 21 years of age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans are more likely than whites to die from smoking-related diseases (heart disease, cancer, stroke), even though they usually smoke less and start later . According to the CDC, black children and adults are more likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke. "You see so many people dying of cancer," said Barnes, who works with the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Children to advance this measure. "It is our responsibility to do what we can to limit that. We know that we will fight against the tobacco industry, but we try to do what is right. George Parman, spokesman for the Altria Group, one of the world's largest producers and distributors of tobacco, cigarettes and related products, said in an email that the company was in favor of federal legislation aimed at to raise to 21 the legal minimum age for the purchase of all tobacco products. He declined to say whether Altria was in favor of enacting laws at local and state levels. Davis said he expected a fierce fight on the part of retailers who profit from the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products. According to this year's bill, state analysts estimated that the state would lose an average of $ 7.3 million a year in sales tax over the next four years. But they said the loss could be offset by fines and a reduction in Medicaid costs. "It can be a sleeper problem," said Davis. "The Chamber of Commerce, the retailers, will go all out." Tim McDonald is director of public health in Needham, Massachusetts, the first city in the country to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products . He added that his supporters had experienced similar resistance in 2005. Thirteen years later, the rate of adult smoking was 8% in Needham, compared with 18% at the state level, said McDonald. The percentage of high school students who smoked dropped from 13% in 2006 to 5% in 2016. "If you delay the time of first use, the less likely they become addicted," McDonald said. Maryland's proposed legislation, similar to the one enacted in California, would not fine smokers but instead target retailers selling products to underage smokers, Davis said. Neighboring Washington increased the tax on cigarettes as well as the age of purchase this year. District law provides a fine of $ 25 for minor smokers. Janice Dawkins, 59, of Capitol Heights, started smoking in adolescence and wants to be able to quit. Dawkins, who is black, said that she thinks the bill is a good idea. "At the time, they were not talking about addiction," she said recently, standing near the County Court of Prince George County while her 25-year-old daughter, Raynell, was waving a cloud of smoke. "We just did it for fun." Doug Gottron, a white lawyer who was taking a cigarette break outside the court, said that he had started smoking at age 17. Over the years, he had stopped. But he resumed the habit about three years ago, joining his colleagues during tobacco breaks to discuss business. Gottron, who was blowing on a thin cigar with the flavor of white chocolate truffles and Irish cream, said the anti-smoking measure should also apply to vaping, which is more popular among teens. He stated that one of his teenage sons had never smoked a cigarette, but Gottron had seen him eat a Juul Vape pen, an e-cigarette accompanying a vaporizer and pre-filled containers containing alcohol. nicotine. "I thought," What's that? "Said Gottron. The bill, which is still in draft form, will be the last effort of the General Assembly to combat adolescent smoking. Earlier this year, the state increased the penalty for retailers selling electronic cigarettes to minors, bringing the $ 500 fine for a second offense to $ 1,000 within two years of a first offense. "We must do everything in our power to keep children on track," Kelley said. "Because once hooked, so are they." Fenit Nirappil contributed to this report. .