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Minimum Age
State

21 years old is the state law minimum age.  It is illegal to sell, furnish or give tobacco and vaping products or cause to be sold, given or furnished to anyone under 21 years old.

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

Nicotine products, including, but not limited to tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, vaping products, pipe tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco) and vapor material (liquid or other solutions or material containing nicotine or synthetic nicotine that is depleted as an electronic cigarette or any product made or derived from tobacco that contains 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 state driver's license, a registration certificate issued under the Federal Military Selective Service Act, an identification card issued to a member of the armed forces, an internationally accepted passport with a discernible date of birth and photograph or an identification card issued by the Department of Revenue.

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

Individuals who violate the youth access law are guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $250 for the first violation; $500 for the second violation within 24 months. The court may allow a defendant to perform community service or attend a tobacco or nicotine cessation program and will credit the defendant’s fine at a rate of $10 per hour. Retailers who violate the law are guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $250 for the first violation; $500 for the second violation within 24 months; an injunction to prohibit the sale of nicotine products in the retail establishment for up to 180 days for a subsequent violation within 24 months.

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

An affirmative defense is available if the person who sold the Restricted Product was presented with, and reasonably relied upon, proper identification which identified the buyer as being over 21 years of age.

No fine shall be imposed upon a retailer for a first offense if the retailer can show that it had adopted and enforced a written policy against sales to persons under 21 years old, informed its employees of the applicable laws on the sale of nicotine products to persons under 21 years old, required employees to verify age by way of photographic identification or electronic scanning device.

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 any person under 21 years old to purchase, attempt to purchase, possess, or use tobacco products, misrepresent their age or use false identification to obtain Restricted Products. Violators will be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $25. In lieu of a fine, the court may allow the defendant to perform community service or attend a tobacco or nicotine cessation program and be granted credit against his or her fine at the rate of $10 per hour.

Federal

Not applicable under Federal law

Sign Requirement

State

A plainly visible sign must be posted at or near every display of nicotine products and be plainly visible. Signs must contain a statement that the sale of nicotine products to persons under 21 is prohibited. Failure to post signs may result in a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $250 for the first offense; $500 for the second violation within 24 months; an injunction to prohibit the sale of nicotine products in the retail establishment for up to 180 days for a third or subsequent violation within 24 months. Each day of violation will be considered a separate offense.

For additional information, go to: http://wecard.org/state-sign-chart/

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. The Department of Health coordinates the inspections, and may provide grants to the local law enforcement agencies or other individuals or entities having the appropriate level of enforcement, to conduct unannounced inspections at retail locations through the use of minors.

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 with the photo on the left. Red "Age 21 on 00-00-0000" are below the heading on the right. 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 11/2020