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Minimum Age

21 is the state law minimum age.  Under state law, no person shall sell, give, or deliver to any individual under twenty-one (21) years of age, any tobacco product or vaping product – see listing of restricted products in the Restricted Products section of the We Card state law summary.


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

Any tobacco product in the form of cigarettes or other tobacco products, including bidi cigarettes, cigars, little cigars, flavored cigars known as “blunts”, unflavored “blunts”, flavored and unflavored blunt wraps, cigarette rolling papers of any size or composition, cigarillos and tiparillos, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff or electronic nicotine delivery systems (e.g., e-­cigarettes, e­-cigars and the like).


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

None specified.


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

A license holder will be fined: $250 for the first offense within a 36 month period, $500 for the second offense within a 36 month period, $1,000 for the third offense within a 36 month period, plus a 14-­day license suspension, and $1,500 plus a 90-­day license suspension for each additional offense within a 36 month period. The license holder is responsible for all violations.

Before selling restricted products, retailers must train the employee in the legal sale of restricted products, including what constitutes a restricted product, the legal age of purchase, acceptable identification, how to refuse the sale of restricted products to an underage individual (or to adults purchasing for an underage individual) and the like. Retailers must maintain records showing that the training has been accomplished with each employee that sells or will sell restricted products. And the employee must sign an acknowledgment form (which must also be maintained among the retailers’ records for at least one year after the employee’s employment is terminated.


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

The court may decide not to require a license suspension if the license holder can demonstrate that he or she has taken measures (as defined by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals) to prevent the sale of restricted to underage individuals, and has trained all employees.


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


The following TWO signs (in both English and Spanish, and available online) provided by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals or privately made exact duplicates, must be displayed prominently for public view at each cash register and state or any other place wherever tobacco products, including electronic nicotine-delivery system products, are sold, in red letters a minimum of 3/8 inch high on a white background:




The signs must include a Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals phone number where violations may be reported and must provide information regarding resources available to Rhode Island residents who would like to quit smoking. Each violation of this requirement is subject to a $35 and $500 fine.

HARD COPY: Exact duplicates may be made.

ONLINE: Download a pdf of required sign(s)


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. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals coordinate the inspections and shall prepare reports detailing results of the compliance check. The records are subject to public disclosure, including the name of the retail establishment checked, the results of the check, and if a citation was issued for any violation found.

Underage individuals with the signed written permission of their parent or guardian may serve as agents of the Department, provided that they are supervised by an adult law enforcement official.


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 blue state name, top bar, and map. If a provisional license, headers are in yellow. The photo is bordered in red, and has UNDER 21 UNTIL 00-00-0000 in white at the top of the license. For more information, go here


Not applicable under Federal law




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

Last updated 04/2022