Testimony in favor for SB 669 Tobacco Products - Minimum Age and Civil Fines

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Thank you to the chair and members of the committee.  My name is Emilie Gilde and I am the Director of Tobacco Use and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Baltimore City Health Department. I am testifying on behalf of Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen in support of Senate Bill 669.

We support SB669 because we believe that raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products will result in significant decreases in youth tobacco use initiation and prevalence.  Tobacco use is the number one driver of preventable deaths in Baltimore City and is a priority area in Healthy Baltimore 2020, our strategy to reduce health disparities.

As you have heard from other panel members, there is substantial evidence that supports raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco.  Instead of re-iterating these points I want to give examples from the field. My office conducts youth enforcement checks to make sure that youth are not able to purchase tobacco products.  We also proactively offer education to retailers about tobacco laws and how to check for identification.  After these education sessions, we offer a quick assessment to ensure we have been effective.  Retailers pass our assessments with flying colors, except for one question about vertical and horizontal identification, and whether they are able to sell tobacco to kids under 18.  

We need to eliminate this confusion and ensure that all products that are harmful to youth brain development have the same minimum age of 21 years.  By having consistency, we will accomplish significant reductions in tobacco use as well as eliminate confusion for retailers who conduct ID checks.

We urge your favorable support for SB 669. Thank you.