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Minimum Age

21 years old is the state law minimum-age. State law indicates it is illegal for a person to sell, give, or otherwise supply any tobacco, tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, vapor products, or cigarettes to any person under 21 years of age.


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.

Restricted Products

Cigarettes and tobacco products (including cigars; little cigars; cheroots; stogies; periques; granulated; plug cut, crimp cut, ready rubbed, and other smoking tobacco; snuff, snuff flour; cavendish; plug and twist tobacco; fine-cut and other chewing tobaccos; shorts; or refuse scraps, clippings, cuttings and sweepings of tobacco, and other kinds and forms of tobacco, prepared in such manner as to be suitable for chewing or smoking in a pipe or otherwise, or both for chewing and smoking), alternative nicotine products (a product, not consisting of or containing tobacco, that provides for the ingestion into the body of nicotine, whether by chewing, absorbing, dissolving, inhaling, snorting, or sniffing, or by any other means) and vapor products (noncombustible product, which may or may not contain nicotine, that employs a heating element, power source, electronic circuit, or other electronic, chemical, or mechanical means, to produce vapor from a solution or other substance such as electronic cigarettes or similar product or device).


FDA regulations apply to these tobacco products defined under the Tobacco Control Act as any product made or derived from tobacco or containing nicotine from any source (e.g., synthetic nicotine) that is intended for human consumption.

  • 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.
  • Cigars
  • Hookah & Pipe tobacco
  • Dissolvable tobacco products
  • Nicotine gels
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS), which are products such as:
    • e-cigarettes
    • e-hookah
    • ecigars
    • vape pens
    • advanced refillable personal vaporizers
    • electronic pipes
    • Components and Parts, such as:
      • e-liquids**
      • atomizers
      • batteries (with or without variable voltage)
      • cartomizers (atomizer plus replaceable fluid-filled cartridge)
      • digital display/lights to adjust settings
      • clearomisers
      • tank systems
      • flavors
      • 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

Acceptable Forms of Identification

Driver's license or non-operator's identification card.


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.

Fine/Penalty Schedule for Selling to Minors

A retail employee who violates the law prohibiting the sale of Restricted Products to minors is guilty of a simple misdemeanor, subject to: (1) a $100 fine for the first offense; (2) a $250 fine for the second offense; and (3) a $500 fine for the third (or greater) offense.

A retailer who violates the law prohibiting the sale of Restricted Products to minors is subject to: a $300 fine for a first violation and automatic suspension of the permit for a period of fourteen days if the fine is not paid; a $1,500 fine for a second violation within a period of two years, or a thirty day suspension of the retailer’s tobacco sales license; a $1,500 fine and a thirty day suspension of the retailer's tobacco sales license for a third violation; and a $1,500 fine and a sixty day suspension of the retailer's tobacco sales license for a fourth violation. For a fifth violation within a period of four years, the retailer's permit shall be revoked.

If a violation is committed by an employee, the retailer shall not be assessed a penalty and the violation shall be deemed not to be a violation for the purpose of determining the number of violations for which a penalty may be assessed if the employee holds a valid certificate of completion from the Alcoholic Beverages Division tobacco compliance employee training program (see below) at the time of the violation. A retailer may assert this bar against assessment of a penalty only once in a four-year period for a violation that takes place at the same place of business location.

The state Alcoholic Beverages Division of the Department of Commerce offers a tobacco compliance employee training program, to inform employees and prospective employees about state and federal laws and regulations regarding the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to minors. The program is free and offered in a convenient and accessible manner throughout Iowa (contingent upon funding). Upon completion of the program, the employee or prospective employee shall receive a certificate which is valid for two years, unless the employee or prospective employee is convicted of selling tobacco products to minors.


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.

Affirmative Defense



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.”

Minor Possession

Other than retail employees, it is illegal for a person under 21 years old to smoke, use, possess, purchase, or attempt to purchase any tobacco, tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, vapor products, or cigarettes. Violators will be assessed a civil penalty of $50 and 8 hours of community service (unless waived by the court) for the first offense; $100 and 12 hours of community service for the second offense; and $250 and 16 hours of community service for the third or subsequent offense.

A minor who alters or displays or has in his possession a fake or altered driver's license or identification card and uses it to purchase or attempt to purchase Restricted Products commits a simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $100.

If a retailer has a reasonable belief based on factual evidence that an identification card offered by a prospective purchaser of Restricted Products is altered or falsified or belongs to another person, the retailer or employee may retain the identification card and deliver it to the appropriate city or county law enforcement agency within 24 hours. The retailer shall file a written report of the circumstances under which the card was retained. Upon taking possession of an identification card, a receipt for the card with the date and hour of seizure noted shall be provided to the person from whom the card is seized.


Not applicable under Federal law

Sign Requirement




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.  

We Card - FDA Required Sign


Compliance Checks

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 Alcohol Beverages Division of the Department of Commerce 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

The FDA indicates that it will conduct follow-up compliance checks on stores found in violation.

Minor License Visual Characteristics

Minor license is vertical with "Under 21 UNTIL 00-00-00" in yellow print in a red block at right. Two photos appear on license with the primary one on the left with "DOB" directly to the right. Previously, minor licenses were vertical with the name, address and date of birth in red. For additional information and/or an image, visit: Iowa Driver's License type and fees.


Not applicable under Federal law




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Last updated 04/2022