The new FEDERAL 21-year minimum age law for all tobacco and vaping products must be followed -- effective Dec. 20, 2019. 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, furnish or give tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.
For retailers (such as tobacco-only stores or vape stores) that have as its primary purpose the sale of tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, or both, it is unlawful for a person under eighteen years of age to enter the store, unless the minor is actively supervised and accompanied by an adult. Age must be verified prior to purchase.
SEE required state sign posting for tobacco-only and vape stores.
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.
Cigarettes, cigarette papers, cigars, alternative nicotine products (including e-cigarettes and vaping products), cheroots, stogies, periques, granulated, plug cut, crimp cut, ready rubbed, and other smoking tobacco, snuff, snuff flour, cavendish, plug and twist tobacco, fine-cut, and other chewing tobacco, shorts, refuse scraps, clippings, cuttings and sweepings of tobacco, and other kinds and forms of tobacco, prepared in a manner to be suitable for chewing or smoking in a pipe or otherwise.
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.
- Hookah & Pipe tobacco
- Dissolvable tobacco products
- 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 documentary evidence that the individual 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 misdemeanor subject to a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $200 for the first offense; not less than $200 and not more than $300 for a second offense occurring within three years of the first offense; not less than $300 and not more than $400 for a third (and subsequent) offense within three years of the first offense.
Failing to demand proof of age from an underage purchaser will result in a civil penalty of $25 - $100.
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.
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 of tobacco products, other than in the course of employment or as part of a compliance check program, is a non-criminal violation, subject to a civil fine of $25.
Not applicable under Federal law
For retailers (such as tobacco-only stores or vape stores) that have as its primary purpose the sale of tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, or both, must conspicuously post on all entrances to the establishment the following:
a) a sign in boldface type that states:
"NOTICE: It is unlawful for a person under eighteen years of age to enter this store, unless the minor is actively supervised and accompanied by an adult. Age will be verified prior to purchase.";
b) a sign printed in letters and numbers at least one-half inch high that displays a toll-free number for assistance to callers in quitting smoking, as determined by the Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Note: The Department of Health and Environmental Control's Tobacco Quitline is 1-800-QUIT-NOW (as posted on their website page: https://www.dhec.sc.gov/health/tobacco-quitline/im-ready-quit
Alert to Retailers on the Federal 21 year minimum age law: Even though the state law indicates an 18 year age in its sign requirement, the federal 21 year minimum age law is required to be followed.
For additional information, go to: http://wecard.org/state-sign-chart/
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 outlets to determine compliance rates. The Department of Revenue and Taxation will conduct the inspections.
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.
UNDER 21 UNTIL 00-00-0000 is in the top right, and the photo is framed in red. For additional information about minor licenses, visit here.
Not applicable under Federal law
The state maintains a Youth Smoking Prevention program with a component focusing on the enforcement and administration of state minor related tobacco laws, including retailer education. Under the program, funding is available to local agencies and organizations. As a condition of receiving funding, a grantee must file reports as to: (a) the amount received and the expenditures made; (b) a description of the program offered and the number of youths who participated; and (c) specific elements of the program meeting the criteria set forth in the state plan.
See additional information and requirements on advertising, labeling and promotion requirements -- available here.