Small cigars are available at retail by the single for less than $1, come in candy and alcohol flavors and enjoy a relatively low tax as compared with cigarettes. Accordingly, a 2007 study surveying compliance-checks in 500 retail facilities in Prince George’s County found that single small cigars constituted the lowest-priced and most commonly requested item by people believed to be under the age of eighteen. Although it is unlawful to sell cigars to minors, they remain unregulated in every other sense. Accordingly, cigars have become the product of choice for youth, who increasingly purchase single cigars for immediate consumption. A minimum packaging requirement will put these products out of the reach for teens and young adults—Maryland’s most price-sensitive consumers.
Prospective legislation could mirror past efforts (see chart below) and draw on recent empirical data that suggests that youths, rather than adults, generally purchase single cigars.
|Jurisdiction||Purpose||Disposition||Full Text/Additional Information|
|Maryland HB238 (2009)/HB 609 (2008)||Requires that cigars be sold in packages of at least five; exempts premium cigars (those with a wholesale price of $2.00 or more) and those sold by retailers whose primary business is the sale of non-cigarette tobacco products||Unfavorable report in House Economic Matters Committee||Bill Information|
|Maryland HB 617 (2008)||Changes the definition of cigarette to include little cigars or brown cigarettes||Unfavorable report in House Economic Matters Committee||Bill Information|
|Prince George’s County, MD – CB-006-2009||Requires that cigars be sold in packages of at least five; exempts certain premium cigars and retail establishments||Enacted but stayed pending litigation||Bill Information|
|Baltimore City -- (2009)||Requires that cigars be sold in packages of at least five; imposes civil and criminal penalties||Adopted but stayed pending litigation||Regulation Information|
Despite difficulty on the State level, Advocates and legislators succeeded in getting both a law and a regulation passed in Prince George’s County and in Baltimore City, respectively, mandating five-cigar packages. Litigation has stayed both provisions, so neither is in effect to date. In Prince George’s County, legislation was challenged in December 2008 by cigar manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and a trade group. The Complaint alleged that the ordinance is not local in nature, that State law preempts the regulation, and that the regulation is unconstitutional. In July 2010, the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County issued an order and opinion granting summary judgment in favor of the County. The Plaintiffs appealed to the Court of Special Appeals and sought certiorari in the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals granted certiorari and will hear the case in February 2011.
Similarly, in Baltimore City, the Health Commissioner’s regulation was challenged by cigar manufacturers, a wholesaler and a trade group in November 2009. The Complaint alleged that the Health Commissioner lacks power to issue the regulation under the nuisance abatement provision, that the regulation is not local in nature, that State law preempts the regulation, and that the regulation is unconstitutional. In June 2010, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City entered summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs in an oral decision issued from the bench finding that the nuisance abatement power did not extend to a cigar packaging provision. The City appealed to the Court of Special Appeals where the case is currently pending.
This website will provide continual updates on the status of the lawsuits to facilitate packaging initiatives in other jurisdictions.