The individual sale of low-cost cigars could be banned in Baltimore City under a proposal by city and health officials who called them "public nuisances."
Mayor Sheila Dixon and city Health Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein on Wednesday proposed a new regulation requiring tobacco retailers to sell cigars in packs of five, saying cheap, tobacco-rich cigars are attractive to youth.
When sold individually, they said, cigars don't carry the same health warnings as packages.
"These cigars pose every bit of the risk that cigarettes do," Sharfstein said.
"It's a small but important step to reducing the incredible toll tobacco takes on the people of Baltimore."
Violation of the proposal - which exempts tobacco shops and cigars that cost $2 or more - would be considered a misdemeanor and carry a fine no greater than $1,000.
City officials will solicit comments on the proposal until July 1, and tobacco retailers said officials could expect strong resistance.
Tobacco sales can be regulated only on the state level, said tobacco lobbyist Bruce Bereano, who added possession of tobacco products by a minor is a crime.
"If they take this action, they will clearly subject themselves to being brought into court and being stopped right on the dime," Bereano said.
The city's code authorizes the health commissioner to abate nuisances, which Dixon said is defined as "any health or safety hazard."
A similar statewide proposal failed before the General Assembly this year.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Source: Washington Post