ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland’s House of Delegates and Senate started the week by passing bills that would increase the state’s age of tobacco sales to 21. Because the bills have slight differences, they will likely go to conference committee to reach a settlement on the proposed language. Following is a statement from Jocelyn Collins, Maryland’s government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN):
“Increasing the age of tobacco sales to 21 will help protect youth from tobacco, which remains the leading cause of preventable death in the state. An estimated 1,900 Maryland kids become new daily smokers every year and e-cigarette use has become an epidemic among our youth according to the US Surgeon General. Given that 95 percent of adult smokers begin their deadly addiction before they turn 21, this is an important step in protecting future generations.
“ACS CAN strongly supports the House version of the bill because it treats everyone under the age of 21 equally by not including an exemption for those in the military. The Department of Defense and the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force have each set goals to become tobacco-free because they recognize tobacco use is bad for military preparedness. The House version of this bill will help further that goal.
“ACS CAN believes raising the sales age of tobacco to 21 needs to be part of comprehensive tobacco-control effort that includes smoke-free laws, regular and substantial tobacco tax increases and fully funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs. We encourage the governor to sign this bill into law as soon as possible.”
More than 27 percent of cancer deaths in Maryland are directly attributable to tobacco use. Unless current smoking rates decline, 62,000 Maryland kids alive today will eventually die prematurely from tobacco-related illnesses.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.