The FEDERAL 21-year minimum age law for all tobacco and vaping products must be followed. There are no exceptions to the federal law. Even if the state law minimum-age may be different, the federal law 21-year minimum age must be followed. State law indicates it is illegal to sell or distribute tobacco products to or for persons under 18 years of age, or to aid, assist or abet another person in selling or distributing tobacco products or cigarette papers to or for minors (other than to employees in the performance of their duties).
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.
Any product that contains tobacco and is intended for human consumption, as well as cigarette wrapping papers and, e-cigarettes (i.e., tobacco-derived products and vapor products).
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.
- Hookah & Pipe tobacco
- Dissolvable tobacco products
- Nicotine gels
- 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 driver’s license or other photographic identification that includes the bearer's date of birth that purports to establish that the person is of age.
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.
Violators are guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and/or 30 days community service. The failure to demand proof of age from an underage purchaser is also a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Retailers shall train their sales employees in the requirements of this law. Localities are prohibited from enacting similar ordinances.
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.
Proof of any of the following shall be a defense to any action brought under this subsection: (1) the retailer demanded, was shown, and reasonably relied upon proof of age; (2) the retailer relied on the electronic system established and operated by the Division of Motor Vehicles; or (3) the retailer relied on a biometric identification system that demonstrated (i) the purchaser's age to be at least the required age for the purchase and (ii) the purchaser had previously registered with the seller or seller's agent a drivers license, a special state identification card, a military identification card or a passport showing the purchaser's date of birth and bearing a physical description of the person named on the card.
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.”
It is illegal to purchase, receive, attempt to purchase or attempt to receive Restricted Products by minors (except in the course of employment). Any person who presents false or fraudulent proof of age or another person’s proof of age for the purpose of purchasing or receiving Restricted Products is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Not applicable under Federal law
Retailers shall prominently display near the point of sale a sign in letters at least 5/8 inch high which states the following:
NC LAW STRICTLY PROHIBITS THE PURCHASE OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS, TOBACCO-DERIVED PRODUCTS, VAPOR PRODUCTS, AND CIGARETTE WRAPPING PAPERS BY PERSONS UNDER THE AGE OF 18. PROOF OF AGE REQUIRED
Failure to post the sign is an infraction, punishable by a $25.00 penalty for the first offense and $75.00 for every subsequent offense.
HARD COPY: Contact the NC Alcohol Law Enforcement Division at 919-622-4500.
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 retailers. The Department of Health and Human Services and the police and local sheriff’s departments may use persons under 18 in connection with such inspections with prior written parental consent, provided that the inspections are conducted only for the purpose of preparing a valid statistical study of the success the state has had in reducing the availability of Restricted Products to minors.
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.
Minor license is vertical. "Turns 21 on 00-00-0000" is highlighted in red to the right of the primary photo. Small, duplicate ghosted image is at the bottom right. For more information and/or image go here.
Not applicable under Federal law
See additional information and requirements on advertising, labeling and promotion requirements -- available here.