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Help the FDA Prevent the Sale of Tobacco Products to Young People

It’s important to keep all tobacco products out of the hands of young people. Find out how you can help.

Group of young people


While overall smoking rates have declined over the years, youth tobacco use remains a concern. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, in 2023 about 2.8 million youth reported current use of any tobacco product, including more than 2.1 million youth who reported current use of e-cigarettes. 

Many teens underestimate how easy it is to become addicted to the nicotine in tobacco products. Nicotine use is particularly concerning in young people because they are at increased risk of nicotine addiction, as their brains are still undergoing critical development. Cigarette use can also lead to other harmful health effects like decreased lung growth and function, and heart disease.

It’s important to keep all tobacco products out of the hands of young people. As little as one cigarette a month is all it takes for some teens to show symptoms of addiction. Teens who vape may end up addicted to nicotine faster than teens who smoke. Vapes may be used more frequently because they are easier to hide and may expose users to more nicotine. Some vape cartridges can contain as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. 

To protect the public health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates all tobacco products. This includes products containing nicotine from any source, such as those containing non-tobacco or “synthetic” nicotine.  FDA regulates cigarettes, e-cigarette/vaping products, cigars, smokeless tobacco, hookah, and more. It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

To ensure the businesses that sell tobacco products in person or online follow all of the restrictions on the marketing and sale of tobacco products, the FDA monitors compliance through surveillance and inspections and by investigating complaints from the public about potential retailer violations.

How You Can Help

Most of the retailer inspection violations that the FDA observes are for businesses selling tobacco products to people under the federal minimum legal age of 21.

The public can report potential violations to the FDA in just minutes. Complaints may be submitted anonymously, if desired. 

When reporting potential retailer violations, provide as much information as you can to help us with a possible follow-up investigation, such as the date, name and location of the retailer, website address (URL), product type, product brand, and type of violation. Please only report potential violations of businesses, not the individuals that may be buying or obtaining these products. 

You can report a variety of issues to the FDA, including:

  • Sales of e-cigarette/vaping products, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, hookah tobacco, pipe tobacco, cigars, or any other tobacco product to anyone under age 21.
  • Sales of flavored cigarettes or flavored cigarette tobacco (except menthol).
  • The distribution of free samples of any tobacco product (except smokeless tobacco in certain/specified adult-only (21+) facilities).
  • Sales of single cigarettes.
  • Sales of cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, and smokeless tobacco through vending machines and self-service displays unless it’s in a facility where only adults age 21 or older may enter.
  • Sales of cigars, e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco, or pipe tobacco from a vending machine unless it’s in a facility where only adults age 21 or older may enter.
  • Sale of unauthorized tobacco products.

You can do any of these three things to take action:

By sending complaints of potential tobacco product violations to the FDA, you help us to monitor industry compliance with laws, reduce the health impact of tobacco use, and keep young people tobacco-free.

How the FDA Investigates Reports

The FDA reviews all complaints that we receive. First, we check to see if we regulate the product named in the complaint, and if the complaint is a possible violation of the laws we enforce.

If the product in the complaint is regulated by a different federal or state agency, we forward the complaint, as appropriate, to the applicable entity for evaluation. For example, a complaint about a tobacco retailer selling cigarettes to anyone under age 21 would fall under FDA jurisdiction, whereas a complaint about the lack of tax stamps on packages of cigarettes would not.

The FDA performs its own investigations of complaints and does not rely solely on reports to take enforcement action. After reviewing a complaint, we may, among other things:

  • Conduct a compliance check inspection of a tobacco retailer; or
  • Initiate monitoring and surveillance of the tobacco product retailer’s website.

During our investigation, the FDA may determine there is no evidence of a violation. Or we may find evidence of the reported violation — or of other potential violations — that will require additional surveillance, monitoring, and/or inspections.

The time it takes the FDA to complete an investigation varies with the complexity of the observed violations and the evidence collected.

Results of the FDA’s Work — and How to Find This Information

In general, the FDA issues a warning letter to a retailer for first-time violations. Retail establishments that continue to violate the law may be subject to additional enforcement action such as a civil money penalty (a type of fine) or a no-tobacco-sale order.

If you would like to find out how retailers in your community are doing or find the result from a report, you can visit CTP’s Compliance Check Inspections of Brick and Mortar Tobacco Product Retailers, an online, searchable database, containing a list of tobacco retailers that we’ve inspected, as well as any warning letters, civil money penalties, or no-tobacco-sale orders issued to a tobacco retailer.  Warning letters issued to tobacco manufacturers or distributors or to online retailers also are available on FDA’s database for warning letters by entering “Center for Tobacco Products” in the “Issuing Office” box in the “Filter by” section of the search tool.


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