As Maryland’s General Assembly enters its first full week of the 2024 Session, lawmakers have a new poll to consider for their policy priorities.

The poll of Maryland voters, conducted by OpinionWorks, makes clear there is strong support across communities for stronger tobacco control policies. The poll found a resounding 81% of Marylanders support strengthening laws to further prevent sales to youth and teens. Only 25% of voters think the State of Maryland is doing enough to limit access to tobacco products for children and teens.

The poll’s findings demonstrate an opportunity for progress not just during this General Assembly session, but in the years ahead at a state and local level, on a broad array of initiatives recommended by public health officials. For instance, 70% of Marylanders support ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol-flavored cigarettes. 69% support including e-cigarettes in Maryland’s Clean Indoor Air Act that prohibits smoking indoors. 68% support limiting the number or density of vape shops in neighborhoods.

The tobacco industry has turned to innovative products like flavored tobacco to attract new customers, requiring public health advocates and regulators to remain vigilant.
The tobacco industry has turned to innovative products like flavored tobacco to attract new customers, requiring public health advocates and regulators to remain vigilant.

To protect profits and addict lifelong customers, the tobacco industry spins any effort to further regulate tobacco access as detrimental to “small businesses” or uses scare tactics involving the importance of tobacco tax revenue. Studies from states with stronger restrictions than Maryland prove Big Tobacco’s claims are meritless, and the poll shows Maryland’s voters agree:

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  • 77% believe it is better to continue driving down tobacco use, and find other revenue sources to replace tobacco tax revenue.
  • 63% believe it is more important to protect children and teens from tobacco products with stronger regulations, compared to 30% who put greater priority on protecting small businesses that sell tobacco products.

Voters will reward elected officials who support tighter restrictions on tobacco products. 62% of likely voters say they would support a candidate for the Maryland General Assembly who wants to enable state governments to go further than state law to limit youth access to tobacco products, compared to 30% who would support a candidate that opposes further action on tobacco.

Explaining the poll results, Steve Raabe of OpinionWorks said, “There is a strong appetite among voters to restrict youth access to tobacco and nicotine products in Maryland. An overwhelming majority believe nicotine is very dangerous, and that translates into a mandate for action on tobacco that crosses party lines and finds strength in all corners of the state. In this poll, voters put much greater emphasis on the health and well-being of children and teens than on tobacco industry arguments against regulation.”

The need for further action on tobacco remains as urgent as ever. Each year in Maryland approximately 7,500 adults die from smoking, and $3.14 billion is spent in health care expenses caused directly by smoking. With 8,800 children trying cigarettes for the first time each year, and nearly 15% of high school students already reporting e-cigarette use, it is imperative to break the cycle of addiction before it takes hold of a new generation.

“We encourage legislators to review this poll data and understand that constituents overwhelmingly support policy action to further restrict the sale of tobacco products,” said Kristin Jimison, director, Mid-Atlantic Region for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “As the tobacco industry continues to spend nearly one million dollars per hour marketing their deadly products – especially to our children – we must step up our efforts to counter this incessant and targeted marketing. We look forward to working with the Maryland General Assembly to pass common sense policy solutions during the 2024 Session.”