Tobacco Products

Retailer Overview of FDA Regulations for Selling Tobacco Products

FDA regulates all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco, and cigars. If you sell tobacco products, you must comply with all applicable federal laws and regulations for retailers.

This page offers a summary of the federal rules. You can find comprehensive federal requirements for tobacco retailers in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco and Deeming Tobacco Products To Be Subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  

How Do I Comply?

These rules apply to all "covered tobacco products" beginning August 8, 2016:

  • Check photo ID of everyone under age 27 who attempts to purchase any tobacco product.
  • Only sell tobacco products to customers age 18 or older.2
  • Do NOT sell tobacco products in a vending machine unless in an adult-only facility.3
  • Do NOT give away free samples of newly-regulated tobacco products, including any of their components or parts.4

These rules, along with rules specific to each tobacco product, are listed below.

Note: If you mix e-liquids, make or modify vaporizers, or mix loose tobacco, and you also sell these products, you will be regulated as both a retailer and a tobacco product manufacturer.

Rules for Cigarettes, Cigarette Tobacco, and Roll-Your-Own Tobacco Sales

Rules for Cigarettes, Cigarette Tobacco, and Roll-Your-Own Tobacco Sales

These rules have been in place since 2010:

  • Check photo ID of everyone under age 27 who attempts to purchase cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, or roll-your-own tobacco.
  • Only sell cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, and roll-your-own-tobacco to customers age 18 or older.2
  • Do NOT sell cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, or roll-your-own tobacco in a vending machine or self-service display unless in an adult-only facility.3
  • Do NOT give away free samples of cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, or roll-your-own tobacco, including any of their components or parts.4
  • Do NOT sell cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, or roll-your-own tobacco that contain a characterizing flavor (except menthol or tobacco flavor).
  • Do NOT sell cigarette packages containing fewer than 20 cigarettes, including single cigarettes, known as “loosies.”
  • Do NOT break open packages of cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, or roll-your-own tobacco to sell products in smaller amounts.

Beginning August 10, 2018:

  • Do NOT sell or distribute cigarette tobacco or roll-your-own tobacco products without a warning statement on the package.1
  • Do NOT display advertisements for cigarette tobacco or roll-your-own tobacco products without a warning statement.1

Rules for Smokeless Tobacco Sales

Rules for Smokeless Tobacco Sales

  • Check photo ID of everyone under age 27 who attempts to purchase smokeless tobacco.
  • Only sell smokeless tobacco to customers age 18 and older.2
  • Do NOT sell smokeless tobacco in a vending machine or self-service display unless in an adult-only facility.
  • Do NOT give away free samples of smokeless tobacco unless in a “qualified adult-only facility” and in limited quantities as specified in the law. 3,4
  • Do NOT break open smokeless tobacco packages to sell products in smaller amounts.
  • Do NOT sell smokeless tobacco without a health warning statement displayed on the package.
  • Do NOT display advertisements for smokeless tobacco products without a warning statement.

Rules for Cigar Sales

Rules for Cigar Sales
  • Check photo ID of everyone under age 27 who attempts to purchase cigars.
  • Only sell cigars to customers age 18 and older.2
  • Do NOT sell cigars in a vending machine unless in an adult-only facility.3
  • Do NOT give away free samples of cigars, including any of their components or parts.4

Beginning August 10, 2018:

  • Do NOT sell or distribute cigars without a health warning statement displayed on the package.1
  • Do NOT display advertisements for cigars without a health warning statement.1
  • If you sell cigars individually, and not in a product package, you must post a sign with six required warning statements within 3 inches of each cash register.1

Rules for Hookah and Pipe Tobacco Sales

Note: If you mix loose tobacco, and you also sell these products, you will be regulated as both a retailer and a tobacco product manufacturer.

Rules for Hookah and Pipe Tobacco Sales
  • Check photo ID of everyone under age 27 who attempts to purchase hookah tobacco or pipe tobacco. 
  • Only sell hookah or pipe tobacco to customers age 18 and older.2
  • Do NOT sell hookah and pipe tobacco in a vending machine unless in an adult-only facility.3
  • Do NOT give away free samples of hookah or pipe tobacco, including any of their components or parts.4

Beginning August 10, 2018:

  • Do NOT sell or distribute hookah or pipe tobacco without a health warning statement displayed on the package.1
  • Do NOT display advertisements for hookah or pipe tobacco without a health warning statement.1

Rules for Sales of E-Cigarettes and Other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)

 Some examples of ENDS include e-cigarettes, vape pens, e-hookahs, e-cigars, personal vaporizers, and electronic pipes.

Note: If you mix e-liquids or make or modify vaporizers, and you also sell these products, you will be regulated as both a retailer and a tobacco product manufacturer.

Rules for Sales of E-Cigarettes and Other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)
  • Check photo ID of everyone under age 27 who attempts to purchase e-cigarettes or other ENDS.
  • Only sell e-cigarettes and other ENDS to customers age 18 and older.2
  • Do NOT sell e-cigarettes or other ENDS in a vending machine unless in an adult-only facility. 3
  • Do NOT give away free samples of e-cigarettes or other ENDS, including any of their components or parts.4

Beginning August 10, 2018, these rules apply to all “covered tobacco products”:

  • Do NOT sell or distribute e-cigarettes or other ENDS without a health warning statement on the package.1
  • Do NOT display advertisements for e-cigarettes or other ENDS without a health warning statement.1

Rules for Sales of Nicotine Gels

  • Check photo ID of everyone under age 27 who attempts to purchase nicotine gel.
  • Only sell nicotine gel to customers age 18 and older.3
  • Do NOT sell nicotine gel in a vending machine unless in an adult-only facility.3
  • Do NOT give away free samples of nicotine gel.4

Beginning August 10, 2018:

  • Do NOT sell or distribute nicotine gel without a health warning statement on the package.1
  • Do NOT display advertisements for nicotine gel without a health warning statement.1

Rules for Sales of Dissolvables

These rules apply to dissolvable tobacco products that are not already regulated as smokeless tobacco.

  • Check photo ID of everyone under age 27 who attempts to purchase dissolvable tobacco products.
  • Only sell dissolvable tobacco products to customers age 18 and older.2
  • Do NOT sell dissolvable tobacco products in a vending machine unless in an adult-only facility. 3
  • Do NOT give away free samples of dissolvable tobacco products.4

Beginning August 10, 2018:

  • Do NOT sell or distribute a dissolvable tobacco product without a health warning statement on the package.1
  • Do NOT display advertisements for dissolvable tobacco products without a health warning statement.1

Why Are These Laws Important?

These laws are designed to make regulated tobacco products less accessible and less attractive to youth. Every day, nearly 2,500 kids smoke their first cigarette and more than 400 kids become cigarette daily smokers.5 Additionally, the CDC and FDA found that during 2011-2015, e-cigarette use rose from 1.5% to 16.0% among high school students.6 Many of these children will become addicted before they are old enough to understand the risks. As a retailer, you play an important role in protecting children and adolescents by complying with the law and regulations.


1. A retailer of any cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco or "covered tobacco products" will not be in violation of this section for packaging that: (i) Contains a health warning; (ii) Is supplied to the retailer by the tobacco product manufacturer, importer, or distributor who has the required state, local, or Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)-issued license or permit, if applicable, and (iii) Is not altered by the retailer in a way that is material to the requirements of this section.
For important details about required warning statements, please see the small entity compliance guide.
2. Retailers must also follow state and local tobacco laws, even if they are more restrictive. For example, in some states the minimum age is 19.
3. An adult-only facility is one in which minors are neither present nor permitted to enter at any time.
4. FDA issued Draft Guidance on Prohibition of Distributing Free Samples of Tobacco Products in January 2017.
5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality; 2016. http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015.pdf. Accessed September 9, 2016.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students - United States, 2011 -2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2016; 65(14): 361-367.


 

Page Last Updated: 05/18/2017
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