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Minimum Age

Customers must be 21 years or older to purchase tobacco products, e-cigarettes and vapor products and tobacco paraphernalia (See Restricted Products section).  It is illegal for a person to sell, give, or supply tobacco, tobacco products, e-cigarettes and vapor products, and tobacco paraphernalia to any person under the age of 21, or to any person seeking to purchase such products for persons under 21 years.

See Maryland Department of Health's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Tobacco Retailers on the "T21" law. 


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 product means any product that is:  intended for human inhalation, absorption, ingestion, smoking, heating, chewing, dissolving, or any other manner of consumption that is made of, derived from, or contains: tobacco; or nicotine; or an accessory or a component used in any manner of consumption of a product, including: cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff, and snus, electronic smoking devices; and filters, rolling papers, pipes, liquids using ini electronic smoking devices regardless of nicotine content.

Electronic smoking device means: a device, or component that can be used to deliver aerosolized or vaporized nicotine to an individual inhaling from the device, including: an electronic cigarette, an electronic cigar, an electronic cigarillo, an electronic pipe, an electronic hookah, a vape pen and vaping liquid; and any component, part or accessory of such a device regardless of whether or not it is sold separately, including any substance intended to be aerosolized or vaporized during use of the device.

Tobacco paraphernalia includes: a cigarette rolling paper; metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic, or ceramic pipe with or without screen, permanent screen, or punctured metal bowl; water pipe; a carburation tube or device; a smoking or carburation mask; a roach clip; a chamber pipe; a carburetor pipe; an electric pipe; an air-driven pipe; a chillum; a bong; and an ice pipe or chiller.

Distributing a coupon redeemable for Restricted Products to an individual under 21 years of age is prohibited. 


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 other valid identification issued by a governmental unit that positively identifies the purchaser as being at least 21 years of age. A military identification card is acceptable proof.  See information on Maryland driver's license and state IDs


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

Retailers may be fined up to $300 for the first offense, up to $1,000 for the second offense within two years, and up to $3,000 for third and subsequent offenses within two years. Persons found guilty of selling clove cigarettes are guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of $500.


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

It is a defense to the crime of selling or distributing Restricted Products to a minor that the seller examined an Acceptable Form of Identification produced by the purchaser recipient.


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



Not applicable under Federal law

Sign Requirement


A licensee shall post a sign in a location that is clearly visible to the consumer that states,  "NO PERSON UNDER THE AGE OF 21 MAY BE SOLD TOBACCO PRODUCTS." 

The Maryland Department of Health has posted on its website Tobacco 21 materials for tobacco retailers, including to sign ptions -- a Poster and a Window Cling with both indicating "compliant with the law."

Direct download of the required Maryland sign is available here.

Check the Maryland Department of Health, Maryland Responsible Tobacco Retailer Program website for the required sign, and how to obtain it: Maryland Responsible Tobacco Retailer Program website


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 Maryland 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 bordered in red and "Under 18 Until 00-00-0000" or "Under 21 Until 00-00-0000", both in red, above the photo. UNDER 21 ALCOHOL RESTRICTED is below the photo, in white.


Not applicable under Federal law




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

Last updated 04/2022