21 is the state law minimum-age. It is illegal to give, sell, distribute, dispense, or offer for sale a cigarette, tobacco product, or nicotine product (such as e-cigarettes or vaping products) to any person who is under 21 years of age.
Minimum-age to Ask for ID: A person must present a valid government-issued Identification at the time of purchase if the person appears to be under 50 years of age.
Age of the employee: A retailer shall not permit a person under eighteen years of age to sell or participate in the sale of cigarettes, tobacco products, or nicotine products. This section does not prohibit an employee of a retailer who is eighteen years of age or older but under twenty-one years of age from handling or otherwise having any contact with cigarettes, tobacco products, or nicotine products that are offered for sale at the retailer's business.
Deny sales to anyone under 21 years old for FDA regulated products (SEE Restricted Products section).
Note: The new federal 21 year minimum-age for FDA regulated products of all tobacco and vaping products (SEE Restricted Products section) was declared immediately effective on December 20, 2019. This law allows for no exceptions.
You must Check photo ID of everyone appearing under age 30 who attempts to purchase FDA regulated products and verify the customer is of legal age to purchase. This is an each-and-every time requirement (even if you know the person to be of legal are.) If you "carded" them yesterday, you must "card" them again today!
Decline a sale when the customer is underage, has no photo ID, the photo ID contains no date-of-birth or the photo ID has expired.
A product that contains nicotine or tobacco or is derived from tobacco and is intended to be ingested or inhaled by or applied to the skin of an individual; or any device that can be used to deliver tobacco or nicotine to the person inhaling from the device, including an electronic cigarette, cigar, cigarillo, or pipe.
No retailer shall sell or offer to sell individual cigarettes, or any pack or container of cigarettes containing fewer than twenty cigarettes, or roll-your-own tobacco in any package containing less than 0.60 ounces of tobacco.
FDA regulations apply to these tobacco products.
- Cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, and roll-your-own tobacco
- Do NOT break open cigarette packages to sell products in smaller amounts.
- Do NOT sell single cigarettes, also called "loosies."
- Do NOT sell cigarette packages containing fewer than 20 cigarettes.
- Do NOT sell flavored cigarettes, cigarette tobacco or roll-your-own tobacco (other than menthol or tobacco.)
- Only sell in a direct face-to-face exchange*.
- Smokeless tobacco
- Do NOT break open packages to sell products in smaller amounts.
- Only sell in a direct face-to-face exchange*.
- Do NOT sell without a health warning label.
- Hookah & Pipe tobacco
- Dissolvable tobacco products
- Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS), which are products such as:
- vape pens
- advanced refillable personal vaporizers
- electronic pipes
- Components and Parts, such as:
- batteries (with or without variable voltage)
- cartomizers (atomizer plus replaceable fluid-filled cartridge)
- digital display/lights to adjust settings
- tank systems
- vials that contain e-liquids
- programmable software
- Do NOT give away free samples of any of these FDA regulated products or components and parts. EXCEPTION: Free samples of smokeless tobacco are only allowed in a "qualified adult-only facility" -- where no person younger than 21 is permitted to enter or be present (or a higher minimum-age if your state or locality has a higher age limit.)
- Do NOT sell in vending machines UNLESS you operate a "qualified adult-only facility" -- where no person younger than 21 is permitted to enter or be present (or a higher minimum-age if your state or locality has a higher age limit.) Some state laws prohibit tobacco product vending machines. Check your state law.
EXCLUDED from FDA regulation are accessories, such as: ashtrays, spittoons, hookah tongs, cigar clips and stands, pipe pouches, humidors.
* The sale of cigarettes, cigarette tobacco and smokeless tobacco through vending machines and self-service displays are allowed ONLY in adult-only facilities where no person younger than 21 is permitted to enter or be present (or a higher minimum-age if your state or locality has a higher age limit.)
** Retail establishments, such as vape shops, that mix and/or prepare e-liquids or assemble vaporizers are considered "tobacco product manufacturers." Many separate regulations will apply. See FDA regulations for tobacco product manufacturers at www.fda.gov.
A government-issued photographic identification that establishes that the individual is 21 years of age or older. According to the Retailer’s Guide to Colorado Tobacco Law, published by the Colorado Department of Revenue, the following forms of identification are acceptable: a driver’s license or identification issued by any United States state or territory, or foreign country; a military identification card; a passport; an alien registration card or a valid employment authorization issued by the federal Department of Homeland Security.
Unless otherwise required by state or local law, FDA recommends that retailers accept only government-issued photographic identification with the bearer’s date of birth. (e.g., State-issued driver’s license or identification card, military identification card, passport or immigration card) for establishing a legal age to purchase FDA regulated products. The Photo ID is not acceptable if it has expired.
Retailers and retail employees who violate the criminal code commit a Class 2 petty offense punishable by a fine of $200. The Liquor Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue is authorized to penalize retailers who sell or permit the sale of Restricted Products to a minor. For a violation of the civil code, the penalty shall be: (a) a written warning for a first violation committed within a twenty-four-month period; (b) a fine of two hundred fifty dollars for a second violation within a twenty-four-month period; (c) a fine of five hundred dollars for a third violation within a twenty-four-month period; (d) a fine of one thousand dollars for a fourth violation within a twenty-four-month period; and (e) a fine of between one thousand dollars and fifteen thousand dollars for a fifth or subsequent violation within a twenty-four-month period.
FDA has a variety of enforcement tools to address retailers who violate Federal statutes or regulations, including civil money penalties, warning letters, seizures, injunctions, no-sale orders and/or criminal prosecution. Retailers who violate the regulations may also be in violation of state law and subject to state penalties or other related orders. Fines and penalties shown here are as of January 17, 2020.
It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution that the person furnishing the cigarette, tobacco product, or nicotine product was presented with and reasonably relied upon a government-issued photographic identification that identified the individual receiving the cigarette, tobacco product, or nicotine product as being twenty-one years of age or older.
Federal law provides that the FDA shall adopt regulations that may provide any retailer that implements the “approved training program,” a reduced civil money penalty if that retailer is found in violation. The FDA does not require training, but it recommends retailers train and educate their employees.
Until the FDA issues guidance or regulations on what constitutes an FDA “approved training program,” the FDA indicates “the agency intends to use a lower maximum civil money penalties schedule for all retailers who violate the regulations restricting the sale and distribution of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products, whether or not they have implemented a training program. However, FDA may consider further reducing the civil money penalty for retailers who have implemented a training program.”
The purchase or attempted purchase of restricted products by minors is prohibited. Violation is a Class 2 petty offense punishable by a fine of $100. In lieu of a fine, the Court may order a minor to participate in a tobacco education program for the first offense. The court may allow a minor to perform community service and be granted credit against the fine and court costs at the rate of five dollars for each hour of work performed for up to fifty percent of the fine and court costs.
Possession of restricted products by a minor is a non-criminal offense.
Not applicable under Federal law
A warning sign must be displayed in a prominent place in the building. The sign must have a minimum height of three inches and a width of six inches, and must read as follows:
IT IS ILLEGAL TO SELL CIGARETTES, TOBACCO PRODUCTS, OR NICOTINE PRODUCTS TO ANY PERSON UNDER TWENTY-ONE YEARS OF AGE. STATE LAW REQUIRES THAT TO PURCHASE CIGARETTES, TOBACCO PRODUCTS, OR NICOTINE PRODUCTS AT THIS RETAIL LOCATION, A PERSON MUST PRESENT A VALID GOVERNMENT-ISSUED PHOTOGRAPHIC IDENTIFICATION AT THE TIME OF PURCHASE IF THE PERSON APPEARS TO BE UNDER FIFTY YEARS OF AGE.
ONLINE: Direct download of the Colorado required state sign is available here.
Effective 8/10/18: For retailers who sell cigars individually without packaging, there is an FDA sign requirement. Download We Card's Sign
Alert: A U.S. District court overturned this regulation in February 2020. However, there are expectations this regulation will be revisited and may be reinstated after ongoing adjustments or legal matters before the courts. Therefore, retailers need to be prepared for this requirement IF it is required once the legal matters are resolved by the court.
Cigars Sold Individually without Packaging - Retailers who sell cigars individually, and not in a product package must post a sign at each point-of-sale that displays all six of the required warning statements per 21 CFR § 1143.5(a)(3). Each sign must be at least 8.5x11 inches in size; clear, legible, and conspicuous; printed in black Helvetica bold or Arial bold type or other similar sans serif fonts against a solid white background, in at least 17-point font size with appropriate spacing between the warning statements; posted on or within 3 inches of each cash register where payment may be made; and unobstructed in its entirety and read easily by each consumer making a purchase. The required warning statements on the sign must be: printed in a manner that contrasts, by typography, layout, or color, with all other printed material; and capitalized and punctuated as indicated above.
As a condition of receiving federal substance abuse block grant funds, federal law requires the state to conduct random, unannounced inspections of tobacco outlets to determine compliance rates. The Liquor Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue coordinates the inspections.
FDA conducts compliance checks of retail stores to determine whether retailers are complying with the new federal law, using:
- Attempted purchases of tobacco using underage customers.
- Inspections of stores for other compliance requirements.
- Inspections of stores in response to public complaints to the FDA’s request for the general public to report suspected store violations (1-877-CTP-1373 or AskCTP@fda.hhs.gov)
The FDA indicates that it will conduct follow-up compliance checks on stores found in violation.
License for minors is vertical. "UNDER 21" is in red above the photo. Prior licenses included "UNDER 21" in a yellow bar at the far right of the card or "UNDER 18" in a red bar at the far right. For additional information about minor licenses, visit here.
Not applicable under Federal law
Under Colorado law, the board of county commissioners of every county may adopt a resolution or an ordinance prohibiting minors from possessing cigarettes or tobacco products.
See additional information on Colorado's tobacco enforcement laws, rules & regulations at the Colorado Department of Revenue's website.
See additional information and requirements on advertising, labeling and promotion requirements -- available here.