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Minimum Age
State

21 years old is the minimum-age law (both a federal law and a state law).

It is illegal for any person to sell, distribute or offer to sell cigarettes, cigarette paper, any product containing, made or derived from tobacco, vapor product, alternative nicotine product or product containing, made or derived from nicotine to any person under the age of 21 years.

Minimum-Age of Employee:   Employed persons under the age of 21 may handle or transport the age-restricted products in the course of their lawful employment.  

Federal

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
State

Cigarettes, cigarette paper, any product containing, made or derived from tobacco, vapor product, alternative nicotine product or product containing, made or derived from nicotine.

Federal

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.
  • Cigars
  • Hookah & Pipe tobacco
  • Dissolvable tobacco products
  • 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 www.fda.gov.

Acceptable Forms of Identification
State

A valid driver's license, permanent resident card, a valid tribal identification card or other written or documentary evidence which shows that the person is 21 years of age or older. Retailers that accept a driver's license as proof of identity must also accept a permanent resident card for that purpose.

Federal

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
State

Retailers AND retail employees who sell or furnish tobacco products to persons under the age of 21 will be subject to varying fines and penalties.  

Employee Fines:

For violations within a 24-month period

-- 1st violation - a civil penalty of $100

-- 2nd violation - a civil penalty of $250

-- 3rd and any subsequent violations - a civil penalty of $500

Licensee (owner) Fines:

For violations within a 24-month period at the same premises (the same store location):

-- 1st and 2nd violation - Issued a Warning

-- 3rd violation - a civil penalty of $500

-- 4th violation - a civil penalty of $1,250

-- 5th violation or any subsequent violations - a civil penalty of $2,500

Federal

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.

Affirmative Defense
State

No violation has occurred if: (1) the seller demands identification from the customer (a valid driver’s license, permanent resident card, tribal identification card or other written or documentary evidence, (2) is presented with identification that indicates the presenter is 21 years of age or older, and (3) the seller reasonably relies on the identification showing that the purchaser is 21 or older.

Federal

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
State

It is illegal for person under the age of 21 to purchase or possess Restricted Products; however, persons under 21 years of age may handle tobacco in the lawful course of employment. If a person under 21 years of age presents false proof of age to purchase Restricted Products, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Federal

Not applicable under Federal law

Sign Requirement

State

Two signs are required – the state does not provide these signs.

1) Retailers must, at the point of sale of any tobacco products, display a notice indicating that:

The sale of cigarettes, any product containing, made or derived from tobacco, vapor product, alternative nicotine product or product containing, made or derived from nicotine to persons under 21 years of age is prohibited by law, and that the retailer may ask for proof of age to comply with this prohibition.

2) Retailers must also post at least one sign in a conspicuous place, no smaller than 8" X 5 1/2" in boldfaced clearly legible type, which states:

HEALTH WARNING
Smoking tobacco during pregnancy can cause birth defects, premature birth and low birth weights.

¡ADVERTENCIA!
Fumar tabaco durante el embarazo puede causar daño a su bebé al nacer, que nazca prematuro y que nazca bajo de peso.

The words "HEALTH WARNING" and "¡ADVERTENCIA!" must be in at least 28 point type. The new law authorizes the State Department of Health to adopt regulations with additional language and to ask non-profit entities operating in the state to donate signs.

A retailer who fails to post the required signage shall be punished by a fine of not more than $100.

Federal

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
State

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. Minors may be enlisted to test compliance if written parental consent is given. The Attorney General will coordinate inspections. Upon the completion of a check, the supervisor must prepare a report that includes, among other things, the name and position of the person from whom the child attempted to purchase Restricted Products, the name and address of the establishment at which the purchase was attempted and the result of the inspection.

Federal

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 Visual Characteristics
State

Minor license is vertical. Red 'UNDER 21 UNTIL 00-00-0000" and 'UNDER 18 UNTIL 00-00-0000" to the right of the photo. For more information and/or image go here.

Federal

Not applicable under Federal law

Other
State

None

Federal

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

Last updated 06/2021