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Minimum Age

It is illegal to sell, offer to sell, barter or give tobacco products to persons under 21 years of age.  

Please note: Persons under 21 years of age are allowed to sell tobacco products to persons of legal age, provided however, that they are under the supervision of a person of legal age.

Electronic Age Verification: Any person that sells Restricted Products may perform a transaction scan as a precondition for the purchases. Whenever the information deciphered by the transaction scan fails to match the information printed on the driver’s license or non­driver identification card, or the transaction scan indicates that the information is false or fraudulent, the attempted transaction shall be denied. A licensee, agent or employee of such licensee shall only use a device capable of deciphering any electronically readable format, and shall only use the information recorded and maintained through the use of such devices for the purposes of verifying the identification of the purchaser. No licensee or agent or employee of such licensee shall disseminate or resell the information recorded to any third person. Use of a transaction scan shall not excuse any person from the exercise of reasonable diligence.


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, cigars, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes, liquid nicotine, powdered tobacco, herbal cigarettes, electronic cigarettes or other tobacco products, smoking paraphernalia (pipe, water pipe, hookah, rolling papers, vaporizer or any other equipment or apparatus designed for the inhalation of tobacco), bidis, gutka (a product containing lime paste, spices, areca and tobacco) or shisha (tobacco-based product designed to be smoked in a hookah). Only persons operating a tobacco-only business may sell bidis or gutka.


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 valid driver's license or a non­driver's identification card issued by the state department of motor vehicles, or any other state, United States federal government or any territory, commonwealth or possession thereof, the District of Columbia or a Canadian provincial government, a valid United States passport or that of any other country, or an identification card issued by the armed forces of the United States.

Identification need not be required of any individual who reasonably appears to be at least 25 years of age (However, FDA regulations require a higher age limit of under 27 years old). Such appearance shall not, however, constitute a defense to an allegation that the sale of a Restricted Product was made to a minor.


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 and retail employees who offer to sell, barter or give tobacco products, e-cigarettes or vaping products, bidis or gutka to persons under 21 are subject to fines, arrest and jail. For the 1st violation, retailers are subject to a $300 to $1,000 fine (and the retailer's name and address may be published in a local newspaper); for retail employees the maximum fine for a first violation is $500. For subsequent violations, retailers and retail employees are subject to a $500 to $1,500 fine. Further, the retailer shall be assigned two points per violation. If the individual who committed the violation holds a certificate of completion from a state certified tobacco sales training program, then only one point will be assigned.

If the retail dealer accumulates three points or more, the dealer's tobacco registration and license (and lottery sales license) shall be suspended for six months, after which the points shall be erased. If the retailer is found in violation while its registration was suspended, the retailer shall be subject to a $2,500 fine and have its registration revoked permanently. If a retailer is found in violation four times within three years, the dealer’s registration and license shall be revoked for one year.

Points assigned to a retail dealer's record shall be assessed for a period of thirty-­six months beginning on the first day of the month following the assignment of points. Any retail dealer who is assigned points shall be re­inspected at least two times a year until points assessed are removed from the retail dealer's record.

The state-­certified tobacco sales training program shall include instruction in: (1) the health effects of tobacco use, especially at a young age; (2) the legal purchase age; (3) legal forms of identification; (4) reliance upon legal forms of identification and the right to refuse sales when acting in good faith; (5) means of identifying fraudulent identification of attempted underage purchasers; (6) techniques used to refuse a sale; (7) the penalties arising out of unlawful sales to underage individuals; and (8) the disciplinary action or loss of employment that may be imposed by the retailer for a violation of the law or a deviation from the policies of the retailer.

A tobacco sales training program may be given and administered by a retailer which operates five or more registered locations, by a trade association whose members are registered as retail dealers, by national and regional franchisors who have granted at least five franchises in the state to registered retail dealers, a cooperative corporation with five or more members who are registered retail dealers and operating in this state, and by a wholesaler supplying fifty or more retail dealers. Persons administering such program shall issue certificates of completion to persons successfully completing the program. Such certificates shall be prima facie evidence of the completion of the training program.

A certificate of completion may be issued for a period of three years, however such certificate shall be invalidated by a change in employment.

To become an entity authorized to give and administer a tobacco sales training program, such applicant must submit to the state an application, a $300 filing fee, a proposed curriculum, a facsimile of training aids and materials to be used and a list of training locations. Training aids may include video or computer based instruction, printed material and other forms deemed acceptable to the state. The state shall certify programs which provide instruction in a clear and meaningful fashion. Approved programs shall be certified for a period of three years at which time an entity may reapply for certification.


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 an affirmative defense in a proceeding alleging an unauthorized sale of Restricted Products to a minor, that the minor produced an Acceptable Form of Identification and successfully completed a transaction scan, and that the tobacco product had been sold, delivered or given to such person in reasonable reliance upon the identification and transaction scan. In evaluating the defense, the commissioner shall take into consideration any written policy adopted and implemented by the retailer to prevent the sale of tobacco products to minors.


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 statutes do not specifically prohibit possession of tobacco by a minor.


Not applicable under Federal law

Sign Requirement


NY state law requires multiple signs.

The law requires retailers to post a white sign with red letters that are at least 1/2 inch in height must be conspicuously posted in retail establishments. Signs must state:


Businesses that sell bidis or gutka shall post in a conspicuous place a sign stating “SALE OF BIDIS (GUTKA) TO PERSONS UNDER TWENTY-ONE YEARS OF AGE IS PROHIBITED BY LAW” on a white card in red letters at least one­half inch in height.

Businesses that sell e-cigarettes/vaping products must post a vaping warning poster, available here.

Retailers who violate this requirement are subject to fines, arrest and jail. For the 1st violation, retailers are subject to a $300 to $1,000 fine. For subsequent violations, retailers are subject to a $500 to $1,500 fine. Further, the retailer shall be assigned two points per violation.

ONLINE: To download pdfs of the required NY state signs, go to this link:

For the NY City sign:


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 State Department of Health and/or local health departments coordinate and conduct the inspections, using 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

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

Minor License Visual Characteristics

"Under 21 Until 00-­00-­0000" and/or "Under 18 Until 00­-00-­0000", ID number and date of birth are printed in red on the right side of the photo. Under 18 licenses have LIMITED in red on the right side of the card. For additional information about minor licenses, visit here.


Not applicable under Federal law




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

Last updated 04/2022