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Minimum Age

MINIMUM-AGE Law is 21 years old. It is for anyone to sell, buy for, distribute samples of, or furnish) any tobacco product, e-cigarettes or any alternative nicotine product to any person under 21 years of age. (See Restricted Products section).

Carding requirement:  Retailers must ask for ID from any person that appears to be under 30 years old, and verify the person is 21 years of age or older by examining a government issued photographic identification.

Minimum-age of sales associates: No person under 16 years of age may sell any tobacco product, electronic cigarette, or alternative nicotine product at a retail establishment selling those products. This subsection does not apply to a sales clerk in a family-owned business which can prove that the sales clerk is in fact a son or daughter of the owner.


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

Tobacco (including cigars, cigarettes, alternative nicotine product, electronic cigarettes, smokeless tobacco or tobacco in any of its forms), tobacco accessories (cigarette papers, pipes, holders of smoking materials of all types, cigarette rolling machines, flavored wrapping paper and wrapping leaf (blunt wraps, cigar wraps or tubes of paper or leaf or similar device for the purpose of making a roll of tobacco or herbs for smoking), and other items, designed primarily for the smoking or ingestion of tobacco products or of substances), any component, part or accessory of an electronic cigarette device used during the operation of the device, even if the part or accessory was sold separately, smoking herbs (broom, calea, California poppy, damiana, hops, ginseng, lobelia, jimson weed and other members of the Datura genus, passion flower and wild lettuce) and bidi cigarettes. Prohibited from selling to anyone: single or loose cigarettes, that is not contained within a sealed container, pack or package that bears the health warning required by federal law.


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

A government-issued photographic identification issued by a federal, state, county, or municipal government, or subdivision or agency thereof, including, but not limited to, a State driver's license, State identificaation card, passport, a military identification or an official naturalization or immigration document, such as an alien registration recipient card (commonly known as a "green card) or an immigrant visa.


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

Any person who sells or gives Restricted Products to persons under age 21, in violation of the Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products Act or the Prevention of Tobacco Use by Minors Act is guilty of a petty offense.  Both the individual employee and the retailer may be fined:

A retailer's license may be revoked, cancelled or suspended for the violation of any provision of the law, or for non-compliance with any provision of the law or any rule or regulation by the Department. When a license suspension occurs and for how long varies on whether or not a retailer has a training program that facilitates compliance with minimum-age laws. The suspension schedule is:

The training program must include at least the following elements:

  • It must explain that only individuals displaying valid identification demonstrating that they are 21 years of age or older shall be eligible to purchase cigarettes or tobacco products
  • It must explain where a clerk can check identification for a date of birth

Each retailer that has a training program shall require each employee who completes the training program to sign a form attesting that the employee has received and completed tobacco training. The form shall be kept in the employee's file and may be used to provide proof of training.


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

It is illegal for a minor to display or use a false or forged identification in furtherance or facilitation of obtaining cigars, smokeless tobacco or tobacco in any form.


Not applicable under Federal law

Sign Requirement


Retailers must post a white sign in a conspicuous place that states in red letters at least 1/2 inch in height:


Failure to post this sign may result in a penalty not to exceed $1,000 for each day not posted. 

If a retailer sells tobacco accessories and smoking herbs, the retailer must post a white sign in a conspicuous place that states in red letters at least 1/2 inch in height:


Failure to display this warning sign may result in being found guilty of a Class C misdemeanor.

Signs based upon the law's requirements of a white sign with red lettering 1/2" high are available for download.

Download and post the Surgeon General's Warning sign.

Donwload and post the Tobacco accessories and smoking herbs sign.

Chicago retailers must post a city government-required sign.  Get a copy here 
For additional information, go to:


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 of Illinois to conduct random, unannounced inspections of tobacco outlets to determine compliance rates.


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 photo on left. "Under 21 until 00-00-0000" is printed vertically in white in a red bar to the right of the photo. "Under 18 until 00-00-000" is printed in black in a yellow bar to the right and beside the red bar. There is a duplicate ghosted image at the bottom right of the card. For additional information and/or an image, see here


Not applicable under Federal law


For more information about current or proposed youth access laws, contact the Illinois state legislature at


See additional information and requirements on advertising, labeling and promotion requirements -- available here.

Last updated 04/2022