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Minimum Age

21 years old is the state law minimum age.  It is illegal to sell, furnish or give tobacco products to anyone under 21 years old.


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

A cigarette, cigar, pipe tobacco or other smoking tobacco product or smokeless tobacco in any form, manufactured for consumption by a purchaser and any cigarette paper or product used for smoking. An electronic cigarette that delivers nicotine or other substances through vaporization and inhalation, electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS).


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

Photo driver's license or identification card issued by the Department of Transportation or by any other state, armed forces identification card, valid passport or a travel visa issued by a foreign country that contains the holder's photograph.


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

Violators will be subject to a fine of $100-$250 for a first offense; $250- $500 for a second offense; and $500-$1,000 for subsequent offenses. A retailer that violates this provision shall be sentenced to a fine of $100-$500 for a first offense; $500-$1,000 for a second offense; $1,000-$3,000 for a third offense; and $3,000-$5,000 for subsequent offenses. Upon a third conviction in any 24-month period, the department may suspend the retailer's cigarette license for up to 30 days. For a fourth conviction during any 24-month period, the department may revoke the retailer's license for up to 60 days.


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 for a retailer that, prior to the date of the alleged violation, the retailer:

(a) adopts and implements a written policy against selling minors Restricted Products that:

● Requires an employee to ask individuals who appear to be 25 or younger for a valid photo identification as proof of age prior to making a sale of tobacco products;

● Lists all types of acceptable photo identification;

● Lists the factors to be examined in the photo identification, including photo likeness, birth date, expiration date, bumps, tears or other damage and signature;

● Requires that if the photo identification is missing anything, it is not valid and cannot be accepted as proof of age (a second photo identification may be required to make the sale of tobacco products with questions referred to the manager);

● Includes a disciplinary policy with employee counseling and suspension for failure to require valid photo identification and dismissal for repeat improper sales.

(b) informed all employees selling tobacco products through an established training program of the applicable federal and state laws regarding the sale of tobacco products to minors;

(c) documented employee training indicating that all employees selling tobacco-products have been informed of and understand the written policy;

(d) trained all employees selling tobacco products to verify that the purchaser is at least 21 years of age before selling tobacco products;

(e) conspicuously posted a notice that selling tobacco products to a minor is illegal, that the purchase of tobacco products by a minor is illegal and that a violator is subject to penalties; and

(f) established and implemented disciplinary sanctions for noncompliance.

An affirmative defense under this paragraph may be used by a retailer no more than three times at each retail location during any 24-month period.


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 purchase or attempt to purchase Restricted Products (other than in the course of conducting compliance checks), or to knowingly falsely represent that he is 21 for the purpose of purchasing or receiving Restricted Products. Violators shall be sentenced to any of the following: (1) up to 75 hours of community service; (2) completion of a tobacco use prevention and cessation program approved by the department of health; and/or (3) a fine not to exceed $200, or a 30-day suspension of motor vehicle operating privileges. The law enforcement officer shall notify the minor’s parent or guardian of the charges.


Not applicable under Federal law

Sign Requirement


There is no state mandated sign. However, if a sign as described in subsection (e) of the Affirmative Defense section above is posted, such sign shall constitute a potential affirmative defense.

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 Commonwealth to conduct random, unannounced inspections of tobacco outlets to determine compliance rates. The state may use minors (at least 14) in performing compliance checks. Inspections are conducted by Department of Health, Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs.


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 license is vertical with "UNDER 21 UNTIL 00/00/0000" in red bar below photo. 


Not applicable under Federal law




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

Last updated 06/2024