Tobacco Retailer Compliance

Last updated: December 3, 2021

NOTE: On December 20, 2019, the President signed legislation to amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and raise the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old. It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product – including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes – to anyone under 21; this includes those with active military identification.

Retailers are an important part of local communities. They provide goods and services to residents of all ages. Licensed tobacco retailers are uniquely positioned to act responsibly and help reduce and eliminate underage access to tobacco products in Anne Arundel County and Maryland.

Tobacco Compliance Check Retailer Violation Report

No Tobacco Under 21 PosterEFFECTIVE OCTOBER 1, 2019 – It is against the law to sell ANY tobacco product, including electronic smoking devices (e-cigarettes, vapes, pod-based devices such as JUUL and their e-liquids, and component parts and accessories) to anyone under the age of 21. To comply with federal and Maryland laws, retailers and clerks must:

  1. Post an age of sale sign (compliant with the new law).
  2. Use a driver’s license or government-issued ID to verify customer age.
  3. Train all staff on tobacco sales procedures and policies​ to:
    • Ask for valid photo ID from everyone under 27. (An employer or school ID is not permitted).
    • Check to make sure everyone is at least 21.
    • Refuse to sell tobacco and e-cigarette products to everyone under 21.

Under Maryland state law, a Tobacco Retailer is responsible for paying the civil penalty issued to store clerks when they have sold tobacco products or an Electronic Smoking Device (ESD) to an individual under the age of 21 years old.

However, in Anne Arundel County, the individual store clerk that has sold tobacco products or an ESD to an individual under the age of 21 years old is responsible for paying the criminal penalty.

Maryland House Bill (HB) 169, Tobacco 21, specifies that if a person acting on behalf of a retailer violates specified prohibitions against the sale or distribution of tobacco products or ESDs, the retailer must pay the civil penalty.

Civil penalties are as follows:

$300 for a first violation;

$1,000 for a second violation if within 2 years of the first violation; and

$3,000 for each subsequent violation within 2 years of the prior.

Visit the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Tobacco Retailers for more information on the new law.

Below are educational materials and tools developed by the Maryland Department of Health to train retailers and clerks to remain compliant with all youth tobacco sales laws.

  • Quick Reference Guide explains the Maryland and federal tobacco sales laws, how to check ID and how to calculate age.
  • ID Guide helps clerks spot fake IDs and determine who is an underage tobacco buyer. This guide can be kept at the counter for quick reference.
  • Product Guide gives you a list of products that are against the laws to sell to minors.
  • Comprehensive Law Guide provides specific details on the new Maryland laws, licensing requirements and Federal regulations.
  • Federal and Maryland Law Chart shows the Maryland and federal legal restrictions of selling tobacco products to individuals under the age of 21.
  • Retailer Training Quiz allows you to test your clerks after they have reviewed the training materials to show how much they know so that they can be compliant with tobacco sales procedures and policies.

The Complete Tobacco 21 Toolkit, ways to download additional materials and additional information on Tobacco 21 in Maryland can be found on the Maryland Department of Health’s website,

NOTE: There is no “grandfather,” phase-in, or grace period​ for individuals who are 18 years of age prior to October 1, 2019. As of this date, no tobacco sales are permissible to any customer under 21.

Approximately 865,000 Marylanders use tobacco and electronic smoking devices, most of them starting before age 21. This new law aims to protect over a quarter of a million residents between ages 18 to 20 from developing a nicotine addiction.

To quit or help someone you know stop smoking or vaping, visit Quit Smoking for free smoking cessation tools and resources.

For information about vaping, go to Electronic Cigarettes.

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