Retail Sales of Tobacco Products
On this page:
- Selling Tobacco Products in Retail Stores or on Retail Websites
- Compliance Check Inspections
- Online Retail Investigations
- Retailer Training and Enforcement
- Tobacco Retail Compliance Webinars
- Regulations & Guidance
- Small Business Assistance
FDA regulates tobacco products containing nicotine from any source, including non-tobacco nicotine (NTN), such as synthetic nicotine.
The term 'retailer' means any person, government, or entity who sells tobacco products to individuals for personal consumption, or who operates a facility where self-service displays of tobacco products are permitted. Tobacco retailers play a direct role in protecting youth from nicotine addiction and the deadly effects of tobacco use. This page includes resources to educate tobacco retailers on what they need to do to comply with federal rules and regulations.
Did You Know?It is illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product – including cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarettes – to anyone under 21.
Do you mix or prepare e-liquids, make or modify vaporizers, or mix loose tobacco and sell any tobacco product? If so, you may be regulated as both a retailer and a tobacco product manufacturer.
Selling Tobacco Products in Retail Stores or on Retail Websites
CTP created resources and education materials to help tobacco retailers better understand and comply with FDA tobacco regulations.
If you sell tobacco products, you must comply with all applicable federal laws and regulations for retailers. By complying with these regulations, retailers help keep tobacco products out of the hands of youth.
Compliance Check Inspections
FDA's Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) conducts inspections of tobacco product retailers to determine a retailer's compliance with federal laws and regulations, including the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), as amended by the Tobacco Control Act, and our rules and regulations.
During Undercover Buy Inspections, the retailer is unaware an inspection is taking place. The minor and inspector will not identify themselves.
Generally, FDA sends warning letters to retailers the first time a tobacco compliance check inspection reveals a violation of federal tobacco laws and regulations. Failure to promptly and adequately correct all violations and ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations may lead to enforcement actions, including civil money penalties (CMPs) or no-tobacco-sale orders (NTSOs).
SAMHSA’s Synar Program and FDA tobacco retail compliance inspection contracts work together in a strategic partnership focused on compliance inspections to reach the shared goal of reducing youth access to and use of tobacco products.
Searchable Retailer Inspection Database
Results from compliance check inspections of brick and mortar tobacco product retailers are available in a searchable retailer inspection database.
Search inspection results by tobacco retailer name, city, state, zip code, or decision date in the database.
Note: Though this database is regularly updated, absence of a retail establishment from this database does not imply compliance with all applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.
Download the “FDA Age Calculator,” a voluntary smartphone application to help retailers comply with federal, state, and local age restrictions for selling tobacco products.
Online Retail Investigations
FDA conducts surveillance of the promotion, advertising, and labeling of tobacco products, including online media and websites that advertise or sell tobacco products to individuals in the United States.
FDA investigates online retailers when its surveillance identifies a potential violation of the federal laws and regulations, including the FD&C Act, as amended by the Tobacco Control Act, and our rules and regulations. If FDA finds evidence of a violation(s) through its investigation of an online retailer, including illegally selling a tobacco product to an individual under the age of 21 years or offering for sale unauthorized tobacco products targeted to youth or likely to promote use by youth, FDA typically will first send a warning letter.
As of February 2023, FDA has issued over 400 warning letters to retailers operating websites illegally selling a tobacco product to an individual under the age of 21 years or offering for sale unauthorized tobacco products targeted to youth or likely to promote use by youth. For more information on these warning letters, please see FDA Warns Firms for Selling Illegal E-cigarettes That Look Like Toys, Food, and Cartoon Characters.
Failure to promptly and adequately correct all violations and ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations may lead to enforcement actions, including civil money penalties (CMPs) or no-tobacco-sale orders (NTSOs).
Online Warning Letter Database
Warning letters as a result of FDA’s online investigations of online media and websites that advertise or sell tobacco products to consumers in the United States can be found 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.
Retailer Training and Enforcement
CTP provides webinars, training videos, and guidance documents to help retailers better understand their responsibilities under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA) and comply with federal tobacco regulations, enforcement activities, and compliance checks.
The Small Entity Compliance Guide FDA Deems Certain Tobacco Products Subject to FDA Authority, Sales and Distribution Restrictions, and Health Warning Requirements for Packages and Advertisements includes information about some of the regulatory requirements that are relevant to retailers.
Tobacco Retail Compliance Webinars
CTP hosts a series of webinars on federal tobacco regulations. These webinars are designed to provide FDA tobacco compliance education and information to retailers and small businesses. Some webinars include a Q&A session to provide you the opportunity to have your questions answered by the FDA.
What a Brick and Mortar Tobacco Retailer Should Do After Receiving a Warning Letter (11:01)
Regulations & Guidance
CTP issues guidance and education materials for retailers to learn about federal tobacco regulations focused on the sale, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products.
Small Business Assistance
CTP's Office of Small Business Assistance (OSBA) provides technical and other nonfinancial assistance to small tobacco product manufacturers to help them and other small businesses to comply with the requirements of the Tobacco Control Act (TCA).
Contact the Office of Small Business Assistance at 1-877-287-1373 (9am EST-4pm EST) or Tobacco-Small Business (SmallBiz.Tobacco@fda.hhs.gov) for help.