Sting operations are utilized to check retailers to determine their compliance with state laws that prohibit the sale of tobacco to minors. Over half of the Baltimore County retailers failed to comply with state laws in 2015, caught selling tobacco products to minors during undercover investigations.
According to Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, Human Services Director, and County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, about 99 percent of retailers refused to sell tobacco to minors during recent compliance checks.
During the undercover investigations, health enforcement officers supervise students under the age of 18, while they enter an establishment in an attempt to purchase tobacco products, such as cigarettes, dip and chewing tobacco.
When comparing the 54 percent noncompliance rate in 2015 to today’s little over 1 percent, it shows that tobacco enforcement programs are working. This and the fact that in 2015, Baltimore County approved legislation to increase penalties for retailers, who fail to comply with the state’s restrictions on underage tobacco sales. Branch said his department conducted over 4,000 undercover stings on more than 800 tobacco retailers in 2016.
In Maryland, a licensee or clerk that sells a tobacco product to a minor will be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $300 for a first violation and $1,000 for a second violation that occurs within 2 years of the first violation.